Cubs Rumors: Chicago 'Pushing Hard' for Free-Agent Closer Craig Kimbrel

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 5, 2019

Boston Red Sox's Craig Kimbrel throws during the ninth inning of Game 2 of the World Series baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The Chicago Cubs are "pushing hard" to sign free-agent reliever Craig Kimbrel, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

Kimbrel and starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel have yet to sign, but since they no longer have draft-pick compensation attached to them, they are expected to pick teams soon.

The 31-year-old Kimbrel has spent most of his nine-year MLB career as a closer and is a seven-time All-Star.

Kimbrel owns a career 1.91 ERA and has struck out 14.7 batters per nine innings. He also ranks 14th on the all-time MLB saves list with 333, and once he signs, he will be No. 1 among active players.

While Kimbrel's track record is impressive, he has been shaky at times in recent years. His 1.43 ERA for the Boston Red Sox in 2017 was sandwiched between a career-worst 3.40 ERA in 2016 and a 2.74 ERA in 2018.

Per Baseball Reference, Kimbrel had a career-worst FIP of 3.13 last season as well, and although he saved 42 games, his five blown saves were the second-most of his career.

Kimbrel did help the Red Sox win a World Series last season, but he was shaky during the playoffs with a 5.91 ERA over nine appearances (10.2 innings).

Despite the potential concerns surrounding Kimbrel's decline, he could be a good fit for a Cubs team that has had major issues with its bullpen this season. Although Chicago's bullpen ERA of 4.02 is eighth in the majors, Cubs relievers have issued 104 walks, which is tied for 23rd in the league. Also, their .242 batting average against is just 16th.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has used both Pedro Strop and Steve Cishek at closer with mixed results. Strop owns a 4.63 ERA and five saves, while Cishek has a 2.88 ERA with five saves.

While Kimbrel might need time before becoming Chicago's closer, he may be a better option than any pitcher in the Cubs' pen.

Acquiring closer Aroldis Chapman in a trade with the New York Yankees in 2016 helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908, and perhaps signing Kimbrel could have a similar impact on the NL Central leaders.