With Bryce Harper simply bouncing from one loaded NL East team to another (now)-loaded NL East team, you can already see that the top four in that division are going to be ridiculous. The NL Central doesn’t have a tanker in the mix, so it’s better – in my opinion – from top to bottom, but the top four in the NL East might be as good as the top four, collectively, in any division.
And they could get even better:
heard Nationals/Kimbrel is “further down the road” than reported
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) March 3, 2019
Keith Law is not a big rumor monger, but he does break stories. So when he sends out a tweet like this, it *tends* to be a very strong indication that something is brewing.
Other reporting on the Nationals and Kimbrel, from Ken Rosenthal for example, merely indicates there’s an interest there in signing Kimbrel, who remains a free agent despite being extremely useful to every contender out there (including the Cubs, but they were never going to approach the monster price tag he was reportedly seeking). So, if Law says it’s further down the line than that, I expect that means active negotiations on a contract are underway.
To be sure, the addition of Kimbrel to any team would be an improvement. For the Nationals, it would make an already-solid bullpen (especially if Trevor Rosenthal truly does come back to what he once was) an excellent one. I tend to have the Nationals as already still the slight favorite in the East, even after the Harper move, but this would solidify it. (Query why the Braves, Kimbrel’s former team, who should have tons of money and are suffering a rash of pitching injuries, aren’t more seriously pushing for Kimbrel.)
One thing I’d note on Kimbrel, about why I always would have been a little leery about giving him the kind of record-breaking contract he was seeking (and I doubt he gets): the trend lines on his career unnerving if you’re talking about that kind of money. Kimbrel, who turns 31 in May, saw his velocity dip last year after peaking the year before. Perhaps not coincidentally, that 2017 peak was also the only season in the last four where his numbers were truly eye-poppingly elite. In 2015, 2016, and 2018, Kimbrel was merely “a very good closer,” a stark contrast to the four seasons that preceded that stretch, where he became known in your mind as “CRAIG KIMBREL.”
In any case, the guy is still probably really good, though. He would make the Nationals even better, and further contribute to the overall slaughterhouse vibe of the National League. At least one league is trying.