Headed out for some last-minute Christmas shopping? You’re not alone. Not content with their offseason haul of Trea Turner, Taijuan Walker and Matt Strahm, the Phillies wrapped up Craig Kimbrel Friday, signing the eight-time All-Star to a one-year contract.
Philadelphia marks the seventh stop on Kimbrel’s MLB passport, following previous stints in Atlanta (2010-14), San Diego (2015), Boston (2016-18), Chicago (Cubs from 2019-21, White Sox in 2021) and Los Angeles (2022). Since debuting in 2010, he’s compiled 394 saves, seventh all-time and the most among active pitchers.
Kimbrel’s salary ($10 million) would indicate the Phillies plan to use him in the ninth inning. That’s a much different philosophy than the “closer by committee” Philadelphia employed last season, an egalitarian approach with little in the way of defined roles. Including the playoffs, 12 different pitchers recorded saves for the Phils in 2022, though only two reached double-digits (Corey Knebel and Seranthony Dominguez).
Philadelphia should come as a welcome change of scenery for Kimbrel, who struggled at times last season, blowing five saves while losing his closer role late in the year, with the Dodgers surprisingly omitting him from their postseason roster.
While Kimbrel’s journeyman arc would suggest he’s on the decline, the 34-year-old was an All-Star as recently as 2021 and still has plenty of juice on his fastball, averaging 95.8 mph last season. Even if he’s not the Kimbrel of old, the six-foot right-hander makes sense as a veteran flyer for a bullpen that posted an underwhelming 4.27 ERA last year, which ranked 23rd out of 30 MLB teams.