Craig Kimbrel finally had found himself a new home in the Windy City after a long, drawn out free agency.
The ex-Boston Red Sox closer officially was introduced to the media in Chicago on Friday after inking a 3-year, $43 million contract with the NL Central-leading Cubs. It was bittersweet for some members of the Red Sox to see their former teammate head to another club, but the transaction was a long time coming.
Kimbrel’s free agency extended two months into the regular season, with the All-Star closer putting things into perspective Friday, noting that he has been through much worse. Last March, his then-newborn daughter, Lydia, was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition, which forced her to undergo multiple surgeries.
“I don’t think it was too bad,” Kimbrel told reporters, as transcribed by MassLive. “I’ve been through a lot in the last year and a half, personally and on the field. I don’t think waiting around trying to find out who I’m going to work for for the next year has been the hardest thing I’ve been through. If anything, there were blessings in it as well. Get to be home, spend time with family. That was a blessing.”
The 31-year-old had a rumored asking price of around five years and $100 million, which he struggled to find. That didn’t surprise Kimbrel though, who said that he’s happy to be in Chicago.
“Am I surprised? No,” Kimbrel said. “I think everybody looked at last offseason as well. Am I disappointed in where I am right now? No. I’m very happy where I am. I’m glad I made it through this process, which was tough, and hopefully we can get this worked out between the players and the owners moving forward. That’s a different conversation.”
Kimbrel went out of his way to keep the negotiations private, even refraining from telling his close friends and family about his intentions. Although it might seem like a bit much, Kimbrel doesn’t regret his tight-lipped system.
“We understood how the lay of the land was going throughout the offseason,” Kimbrel said. “The offers we were getting, the offers we were not getting and what position we were in. My family and friends had no clue; they were on the outside looking in. I couldn’t let them know, especially the people closest to me. I still couldn’t fill them in on what was going on.”
So now Kimbrel returns to the mound for the first time since October of last season when he helped Boston win a World Series. He wasn’t terribly sharp in the postseason however, posting an ERA of 5.91 in 10 2/3 innings. Despite the numbers, Kimbrel’s priorities have not changed.
“At the end of the day, it’s about winning. Would I have wanted my personal things to look better? Absolutely. I think everybody would. Getting through it, winning the World Series— that was our goal. At that point, it wasn’t about trying to put up numbers. It was about trying to get that last out before they tied the game or took the lead. Fortunately enough, I didn’t let them do that.”
Thumbnail photo via Jayne Kamin/Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Images