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Should the Washington Nationals Sign Craig Kimbrel?


Craig Kimbrel is the best and most accomplished player left on the open market, which is weird seeing how the season starts in two weeks. He has been adamant about not signing for less than what he believes he deserves. Due to this, many teams have backed out from his absurd asking price. Entering free agency, Kimbrel was looking for a six-year contract worth at least nine figures, but has failed to find an offer remotely close to his liking.

A team that has been reported in having interest in the accomplished closer is the Washington Nationals. Kimbrel would obviously make them a better team, but the front office has been adamant that they don’t want to go into the luxury tax. Now here’s the question, should the Washington Nationals sign Craig Kimbrel?

Why they should

Craig Kimbrel is one of the best closers in baseball and is coming off a season where he saved 42 games and helped Boston win the World Series. Last season with Boston he went 5-1 with 96 strikeouts.

Washington’s bullpen had a 4.04 ERA which was good for 16th in the league. The 2016 Cleveland Indians, 2018 Milwaukee Brewers and New York Yankees have all proved how important it is having two closers. Washington’s bullpen fell apart last season after closer Sean Doolittle went on the DL. A second closer of Kimbrel’s magnitude would neglect that problem.

Sean Doolittle is already trying to make a case for signing Kimbrel. Doolittle told Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post that, “I went into Davey Martinez’s office and said, ‘I have an empty locker next to me, right between me and Trevor Rosenthal,’”. “If we get (Kimbrel), I would be the first guy at the door to welcome him.” “I told Davey that I had some incentives in my contract (for saves), but a World Series check goes a long way,”. “I love closing. But I love winning more.”

It is good to see the current closer in high spirits when it comes to adding someone who would take over his role.

The Nationals added Trevor Rosenthal and traded for Kyle Barraclough. Rosenthal is coming off Tommy John surgery and Barraclough is inconsistent. Kimbrel patrolling the ninth would allow for the team to ease back Rosenthal and let Barraclough grow. This is because

Why they shouldn’t

Image courtesy of The Washington Post.

Kimbrel started to show his decline in the playoffs. In ten innings he gave up seven runs and accumulated an ERA of 5.91. He was bailed out by slick defense from his teammates.

Kimbrel’s asking price would surely put the team over the luxury tax. This would be the third time in a row the Nationals would go over the tax which would mean they would have to pay 50% penalty. To make matters worse, the team would lose two more draft picks. They already forfeited two by signing Patrick Corbin. Washington needs all the draft picks they can get to help replenish their farm system.

Kimbrel turns 31 in May and his numbers have dropped since 2017. He suffered drops in his strikeouts, K/9, and K/BB. He saw a rise in walks, ERA, blown saves, and opponents batting average. Going over the tax for a pitcher over the age of 30 who may be on the decline might be the wisest decision.


Signing Kimbrel would definitely bolster the bullpen. A one-two punch of Sean Doolittle and Craig Kimbrel would be one of the best in the game. But is the increased luxury tax and loss of draft picks worth it? Yes, it would be. Kimbrel allows for the Nationals to have a top end closer any day of the week, and he can help patch up an average bullpen and put them over the top. A one year deal for Kimbrel to prove the haters wrong might be the best decision for him.

Feature Image From NBC Sports

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