You alsoWith the Chicago Cubs moving fully into sell mode – well, that is to say, they SHOULD be moving fully into sell mode at this point – you’re going to see them quickly becoming the target of a whole lot of rumor and speculation from executives and media outside of Chicago. It’s been a while since we’ve been in this phase, so it’ll take some adjusting.
Like, when a Chicago Cubs player is called “the most coveted player in the trade market”:
Mentioned to a high-ranking MLB exec that the Red Sox might be a natural landing spot for Craig Kimbrel. He pushed back, and speculated that Kimbrel's destination will come down to either the Astros or the Athletics. Kimbrel will be the most coveted player in the trade market.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 6, 2021
Well that’s wild, eh? And also likely correct.
It’ll depend a bit on who else comes onto the market by July 30, but we know that super elite closers are as desirable as anything out there at midseason. For one thing, they are disproportionately valuable in the postseason, where they can be deployed aggressively. For another thing, if you already expect to make the postseason, you might be willing to pay even more to get that guy because you already know you’ll need him. Oh yeah, and also? They help you in the second half to make sure you actually do make the postseason, because obviously.
That is to say, given Kimbrel’s role and dominance and scouting – he looks the part right now – yeah, it’s highly plausible he’s the most valuable guy out there on the market to the right contender.
There’s another factor here, of course: Craig Kimbrel is not a pure rental. Depending on the buyout (which could be $1 or $2 million, based on games finished this year), Kimbrel’s contract includes a team option for 2022 at $14 or $15 million. On a one-year deal, a super-elite closer at that price point is mighty attractive. Which is to say, if you’re buying Kimbrel, you’re really getting him for the stretch run, the postseason, AND next year at a reasonable price. Heck, the Cubs can chip in some cash to make it even more compelling.
Bonus on Kimbrel? He’s looked the same by the results, the data, and the eye test after the phasing in of sticky stuff enforcement. That’s going to matter a whole lot to would-be buying teams.
As for which team would be the buyer, yeah, the A’s and Astros both make sense as clubs that need the back-end guy AND already look like very, very likely postseason teams. You also have them competing with each other to win the AL West. But I really wouldn’t rule out any contender, given the importance of your top relievers in the postseason. Just because you “already have a closer” doesn’t mean you don’t get even better by adding Kimbrel. The Cubs “already had a closer” when they added Aroldis Chapman, who wound up being critical in the postseason.
So, you know, buckle up on the Craig Kimbrel market overall. If the Cubs decide to move him – and they should, even with the 2022 option, because they need the talent infusion for the longer-term – they need to make sure to really max out the return. Kimbrel is worth it. And the worst case scenario – no trade – is really not that bad, given the option. So much more on Kimbrel coming.