Will the Boston Red Sox consider targeting Chicago Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel before the July 30 Major League Baseball trade deadline?
Boston is very familiar with Kimbrel from his three seasons with the organization (2016-18), so perhaps the stars will align for a reunion as the Red Sox gear up for a surprising playoff push after finishing in last place in the American League East in 2020.
WEEI’s Rob Bradford asked MLB insider Jon Heyman during Tuesday’s episode of “The Greg Hill Show” about the Red Sox potentially pursuing Kimbrel.
“They’re clearly not a contender at this point and that was the intention all along of management — to sell,” Heyman said of the Cubs. “So, they’re going to sell, and the Red Sox and any other team that’s in the race is going to be interested in Craig Kimbrel. His market is going to be huge.”
Kimbrel, an eight-time All-Star, has been excellent in 2021, reviving his career after a couple of rough seasons with Chicago in 2019 and 2020. The 33-year-old posted a 0.57 ERA, a 0.66 WHIP, a 1.11 FIP and 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings across 33 first-half appearances (31 2/3 innings). He totaled 20 saves.
Heyman isn’t exactly going out on a limb by saying Kimbrel’s market will be robust, as contending teams, like the Red Sox, always seem to be looking for bullpen help at the trade deadline. But Kimbrel’s situation is interesting in that he’s controllable beyond this season, with a $16 million club option. He’s not purely a rental, which presumably will increase the trade package the Cubs can expect to land in return.
“Huge market for Kimbrel, and any contending team is going to be interested in a closer,” Heyman said. “Even if they have a good closer, as the Red Sox do, if you have two great closers, you’re in great shape, and then you’ve got the eighth and ninth (innings) locked down.”
The Red Sox’s bullpen has been excellent this season, with Adam Ottavino, Garrett Whitlock, Hirokazu Sawamura, Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez, among others, forming a strong bridge to Barnes.
But ESPN’s Buster Olney wondered this week whether Barnes’ new two-year contract extension could increase the chances of Boston acquiring Kimbrel, and it’s certainly a fascinating possibility to consider as the Red Sox look to solidify themselves as legitimate World Series contenders.