The Craig Kimbrel sweepstakes finally ended Wednesday night when the veteran closer reportedly agreed to a three-year, $43 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.
Now, we know which team finished second in the long, drawn-out free agency pursuit.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported Thursday, citing major league sources, that the Tampa Bay Rays were the runner-up for Kimbrel, one of the most dominant closers in Major League Baseball history.
Sources told Rosenthal the Rays gave Kimbrel a choice of two proposals: a two-year, $31 million contract with a club option or a three-year, $39 million deal.
This is a somewhat surprising development given Tampa Bay owns the lowest payroll in baseball, but it speaks to how Kimbrel’s market developed once he no longer was tied to draft pick compensation. Prior to Sunday at midnight, any team that signed Kimbrel would have needed to relinquish a draft pick due to him rejecting the Boston Red Sox’s $17.9 million qualifying offer at the onset of free agency.
Kimbrel, whose contract with the Cubs reportedly includes a fourth-year option, spent the past three seasons in Boston building on a potential Hall of Fame résumé. The seven-time All-Star spent his first five seasons with the Atlanta Braves before a one-year stop with the San Diego Padres en route to Boston.
Kimbrel, who turned 31 last week, is coming off a 2018 season in which he posted a 2.74 ERA, saved 42 games and struck out 13.9 batters per nine innings. The hard-throwing right-hander struggled in the playoffs as the Red Sox marched toward a World Series title, but he’s downright filthy when firing on all cylinders, and the Cubs’ bullpen just became much stronger in light of him reportedly landing with Chicago.
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