Craig Kimbrel Signed by Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies signed former All-Star reliever Craig Kimbrel on Friday. The deal, first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, is for one year and $10 million.

Kimbrel ranks seventh all-time with 394 career saves. The 34-year-old righty got his start with the Atlanta Braves, pitching his first five seasons with them. Since then, he has bounced around to several teams, notably winning a championship in 2018 with the Boston Red Sox. He joins a Phillies club fresh off a World Series appearance, thanks in large part to a strong bullpen.

Craig Kimbrel’s All-Star Career

Kimbrel burst onto the scene with Atlanta, quickly establishing himself as a premier closer. He was effective in 2010, the year of his debut, but saw limited action in middle relief. He was the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year, amassing a rookie record of 46 saves with a 2.10 ERA. Kimbrel followed up that honor with three more All-Star campaigns in a row. In all of these seasons, he posted an ERA of 1.61 or lower and either shared or held outright the league lead in saves, including a career-high 50 saves in 2013.

After a one-year stint with the San Diego Padres following a blockbuster trade, Kimbrel enjoyed three All-Star years in Boston, capped by a World Series title in 2018. Earlier that year, he became the youngest pitcher to amass 300 career saves. After spending parts of three seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Kimbrel was traded to the crosstown rival Chicago White Sox, where he spent the latter part of 2021. In 2022, he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers. With his last two clubs, Kimbrel saw a slight dip in effectiveness but remained highly used. For his career, he has eight All-Star nods, five top 10 Cy Young finishes, 1,098 strikeouts, and a 2.31 ERA.

Phillies Sign Kimbrel

Philadelphia made an unlikely run to the National League pennant last season, sneaking in as the lowest seed in the league and defeating three favored opponents. A major reason they did so is that for once, their bullpen was an asset rather than a liability. For years, the Phils struggled to hold late-inning leads, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory much too regularly. But late in 2022, they caught lightning in a bottle with the pen. On the strength of such pitchers as Corey Knebel, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, and David Robertson (no longer with the team), they held onto leads more often than not in October.

Now that they’ve signed Kimbrel, the Phillies are looking to recreate that dynamic. It is unknown exactly what role Kimbrel will play at first. But given his pedigree as a closer, if he proves effective early in 2023, he could quickly find himself in high-leverage spots, perhaps even his niche in the ninth every now and then.

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Players mentioned:

Craig Kimbrel, Corey Knebel, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, David Robertson