We’re more than two months into the Major League Baseball offseason, but the biggest moves have yet to come. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado — the two best free agents available — still haven’t signed, and each is capable of bringing a team to new heights.
Craig Kimbrel is another interesting player remaining on the open market, which has been slow to develop this winter. And while the Boston Red Sox still could re-sign the seven-time All-Star, club president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has indicated the defending World Series champions don’t plan to make a major expenditure for an elite closer.
So, where will Kimbrel sign if he doesn’t return to Boston?
Jeff Sullivan, a writer well-known in the baseball community, wrote an article for ESPN.com, published Tuesday, that looked at five under-the-radar MLB contenders for 2019 and what each team should do to boost its potential for next season. He suggested the Los Angeles Angels should sign Kimbrel, who’s been arguably the best closer in baseball during his nine-year career.
Here’s part of Sullivan’s reasoning:
The Angels aren’t hurting for really good players, with Trout supported by Andrelton Simmons, Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton. Zack Cozart is coming back from a lost season, and the rotation has been bolstered by the additions of Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill. For the most part, there’s not much the Angels still need except for help in the bullpen. The bullpen projects to be one of the worst in baseball.
It’s fine for the Angels to mostly focus on cheaper additions. Good relievers often come out of nowhere, and there’s real talent in guys they already possess, like Cam Bedrosian, Justin Anderson and Ty Buttrey. But there’s not a lock in the bunch, and Kimbrel doesn’t seem to have all that strong a market. He’ll be expensive, but the Angels have a chance if they choose to get involved. It would just require a lifting of the payroll.
The Angels are coming off a 2018 season in which they went 80-82 and finished in fourth place in the American League West — 17 games behind the Oakland Athletics for the AL’s second wild-card spot. As Sullivan mentioned, however, there’s talent on Los Angeles’ roster, headlined, of course, by Mike Trout, who’s widely considered the best baseball player on the planet.
Kimbrel sure didn’t help his stock during the 2018 postseason despite the Red Sox winning the World Series, struggling to a 5.91 ERA in nine appearances spanning 10 2/3 innings. But he still performed at an elite level during the regular season and immediately would change the complexion of Los Angeles’ bullpen, which could be enough for the Halos to contend in the AL West, especially with the Seattle Mariners — who finished ahead of the Angels — in the midst of a rebuild.
For what it’s worth, Sullivan also suggested the Cincinnati Reds trade for Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who’s been the subject of trade rumors this offseason after a clutch postseason for Boston.
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