As the Rule 4 draft draws to a close, the first deal of free agency 2.0 comes to fruition. It’s silly this is even a thing, really, as what has become the new “normal” is the greatest closer of this generation waiting until after draft pick compensation has expired to sign a deal.
Dallas Keuchel is soon to go, but Craig Kimbrel is first, reportedly signing with the Chicago Cubs per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The Cubs, as is known, sorely need a signing such as this, due to their: a) 58.6% divisional odds and b) their tenth-ranked reliever ERA- in baseball. That latter note isn’t too bad all things considered, but they’ve lacked a high-impact reliever after ceding the closer role to Steve Cishek after a Pedro Strop injury.
In that way, they’ve lacked a True Closer that they rode to their 2016 World Championship. While they will no longer forfeit the 64th pick in the draft, they will forfeit $2.5 million in international bonus pool money, which isn’t insignificant. It’s just slightly less so when you’re dealing with a closer of Kimbrel’s caliber.
While Kimbrel will likely need time to gear back up to game-time strength, this is a massive boon for Chicago. Last season, despite the kerfuffle over his 5.91 ERA in the postseason, the rest of his 2018 season was ho-hum otherwise. He had an above-average (for his career) whiff rate of 17.2%, struck out 13.86 per nine, and tabulated 3.66 WPA, fourth-highest in baseball among relievers. While not the highest in counting stats last season, he is still a top-thirty reliever that projects as one moving forward.
While his debut is in question and the deal itself hasn’t been publicized, there’s no question that there is no way the Cubs won’t benefit from this in a massive way. High leverage wins in the second-half are hard to come by, and they acquired it for just money. All it takes is one single WPA in the postseason to pay dividends that make international bonus pool money, or even the 64th pick, seem funny to even consider as roadblocks.