Craig Kimbrel Rumors: Cubs Showing Interest in Closer, Doing 'Background Work'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJune 1, 2019

Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the ninth inning in Game 3 of the World Series baseball game on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The Chicago Cubs are reportedly "showing interest" in closer Craig Kimbrel, whose status as an unrestricted free agent will become more attractive Sunday night when the draft compensation (a 2019 MLB draft pick and its slot money) attached to him is eliminated.

On Saturday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the Cubs are doing "background work" on Kimbrel and trying to determine whether signing him would be "financially viable."

The Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays join Chicago in the expected sweepstakes for Kimbrel, who was seeking a three-year contract worth between $39 million and $52 million as recently as mid-April, per Rosenthal.

Jim Bowden @JimBowdenGM

Alex Anthopoulus #Braves GM just made it clear to us that they have real interest in both Kimbrel and Keuchel and are doing their homework on them…obviously they’re interest is without giving up the draft pick and are definitely a team to watch esp w/ Kimbrel….after the draft

Draft compensation, which enters the equation when a team extends a qualifying offer, was added to help clubs that lose high-profile players through free agency. But it's had the unintended consequence of leaving impact free agents on the market because front offices don't want to lose a pick.

Veteran starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel joined Kimbrel as players who would have traditionally been signed long ago but have now been forced to wait.

The 31-year-old Kimbrel owns a microscopic 1.91 ERA and 0.92 WHIP across nine MLB seasons with the Braves, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox. He struggled in last year's playoffs with Boston, posting a 5.91 ERA in nine appearances, but the team still won the 2018 World Series.

He's never finished a regular season with an ERA above 3.40, and he's struck out an astonishing 868 batters in just 532.2 career innings.

In Chicago, he'd likely take over closer duties once he got back up to full speed, which would probably require at least a few outings in the minor leagues. It would shift Steve Cishek into a setup role and move Brad Brach into some lower-leverage situations after recent struggles.

The Cubs will face plenty of competition for Kimbrel's services starting midnight Sunday, though.