The Chicago Cubs have added free agent closer Craig Kimbrel, pending a physical. How will this move impact the NL Central race and the Milwaukee Brewers?
Craig Kimbrel will soon be working the ninth inning for the Chicago Cubs. He’s inked a three-year deal worth a reported $43 million. Will this move swing the division to Chicago, or can the Milwaukee Brewers overcome their suddenly free-spending rivals?
How have big contracts worked out for the Cubs?
Not well. The Chicago Cubs are paying a ton of money to Yu Darvish, Jason Heyward, and Tyler Chatwood, and haven’t gotten much out of it. In fact, the last deal longer than three years that the Cubs signed that actually worked out was Ben Zobrist, and that was back before the 2016 season. The Cubs don’t have the best track record with free agent signings, and there’s a non-zero chance that Kimbrel also struggles.
Was there a reason that Kimbrel was unsigned?
He was asking for a ton of money, and the team that signed him would have lost a draft pick. He still got a ton of money, but signed after the 2019 first-year player draft. His 2018 season wasn’t great, but he’s clearly one of the top five closers of all-time, and he’s only in his age-31 season. The contact might not look great in the final year, but he should really help the Cubs bullpen.
Why did the Cubs add Kimbrel?
You know how the Milwaukee Brewers have the best reliever in baseball waiting for high leverage situations in the late innings? The Cubs have Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, and Allen Webster waiting at the end of their bullpen. In one run games in 2019, the Cubs are only 10-10, and their tied with a few other teams for the third most blown saves.
Kimbrel adds a proven commodity who actually has more saves in his career (333) than hits allowed (285).
How does this impact the Brewers?
Well, the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers are fighting it out again for first place in the NL Central. The Cubs have a 34-26 record, and are one game up on the 34-28 Brewers, and they’ve just added a legit closer to their mediocre bullpen.
While the move for Kimbrel makes the Cubs better, they still have a poorly constructed roster with a thin pitching staff, and a creaky lineup. They still have over 100 games to play, and Kimbrel will likely feature in less than half of them. This move does move the needle, but the season is a marathon, not a sprint.
The Milwaukee Brewers are running with the Cubs, and they’ve had issues in the rotation, struggling players, and a few injuries already. The rotation should stabilize. Jesus Aguilar and Travis Shaw should turn it around. And the Brewers have a deep roster with options capable of filling in for injuries. The division is still up for grabs, and the Cubs are improved, but they’re not clearly better.