Chris Sale: Red Sox Hoped Craig Kimbrel Would Return Before Signing with Cubs

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 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

Craig Kimbrel helped the Boston Red Sox win a World Series last year, and some of his former teammates were hoping he would re-sign with the defending champions before he ultimately chose the Chicago Cubs

"I think we all were [holding out hope he would come back]," Chris Sale said, per Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com. "You look at his body of work and he's as solid as it gets as a pitcher and a person. I think everybody in here would have liked to have him back, but we understand it. I’m just happy he's back in the game and able to go out there to start dominating again."

The Cubs hope Kimbrel does just that after they signed him to a three-year, $43 million deal with a fourth-year option, per Jeff Passan of ESPN.com.

Cotillo noted Red Sox manager Alex Cora sent his former closer a congratulatory text and said, "Good for him. I'm happy for him. Finally, he can go out there and do what he does."

That it took until June, when Kimbrel wouldn't be tied to any draft-pick compensation, for the veteran to sign a new contract was one of the most notable developments of the entire free-agency market this year. Sale was quick to point out the 31-year-old should have been signed multiple months ago.

"It's about two or three months late," Sale said. "He's about as good as it gets, on the field and off the field. Great guy. Obviously an unbelievable pitcher. Makes the game better so I'm excited to see him pitch."

Kimbrel has the resume of someone who should have been signed in the early stages of the offseason as a seven-time All-Star and World Series champion. He posted a 2.74 ERA, 0.995 WHIP and 96 strikeouts in 62.1 innings last year and finished with a sub-2.00 ERA in five of his first nine seasons in the big leagues.

The last such year was 2017 when he tallied a 1.43 ERA, 0.681 WHIP and 126 strikeouts in 69 innings while notching 35 saves.

His addition is a much-needed boost for a Cubs team looking to maximize the middle of a competitive window. Closer Brandon Morrow hasn't pitched since July of last season due to an elbow injury, and Pedro Strop has dealt with hamstring issues the last two years.

Plenty of uncertainty exists at the back end of Chicago's bullpen, but Kimbrel should provide some stability as a proven closer who can shift others into more comfortable roles while the team pursues a fifth straight playoff appearance.