FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The best free agents in baseball remain unsigned, but the one that really burns Red Sox ace Chris Sale is former teammate Craig Kimbrel.
The seven-time All-Star closer remains a man without a team as spring training begins, and Sale has a theory why: tanking.
With a number of teams more focused on getting their finances in order and landing a top pick in the draft to build a la the Astros or Cubs, the market for even a player as talented as Kimbrel begins to shrink.
"It's crazy to me," Sale said. "I don't want to get too far into it with the politics of baseball and all this stuff, but he's as good as it gets. He 100 percent makes any team better that he plays for. It's crazy to think that there really hasn't been a whole lot of traction with him. I think with half the league just showing up for checks, it doesn't help . . . not trying to win, those kind of things. Obviously your market kind of goes down a little bit. He's earned it. You'd just like to see better for him. He's put in the time, he's put in the effort, he's put it on the line. It's time for somebody to do that for him."
While there's a chance Kimbrel returns to Boston -- his market isn't exactly burgeoning elsewhere -- Sale can't believe it has come to this to begin with. By the same token, he's confident that whoever closes for the Red Sox will get the job done.
"Yeah, I mean, obviously, Craig is as good as it gets," he said. "He's the best reliever in baseball right now over the last eight years, nine years, I think it's been. At the same time, going forward, if he's not in the mix, I think we have a handful of guys who can lock down the ninth inning and we have a lot of young guys that can step up as well. I think, obviously people like to make a big deal about it, but where we sit as players and our staff and our coaches, I think we're confident with the group we have going forward without the additions."