Well, it looks like the last of the gifts have been placed under Phillies fans’ trees this year.
Free-agent reliever Craig Kimbrel in agreement with Phillies, source tells @TheAthletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 23, 2022
The terms of the deal have now been reported, the team only settling in for a one year deal with the right-hander.
Reliever Craig Kimbrel and the Philadelphia Phillies are in agreement on a one-year, $10 million contract, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN. First with the deal: @Ken_Rosenthal.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 23, 2022
The team was known to be searching for another relief arm, one that could be used late in games and also one that could be had for simply money as opposed to them having to use prospects in a trade. They accomplished this all with this deal with Kimbrel, setting up their bullpen actually quiet well. The question now becomes usage.
With Kimbrel’s addition, the bullpen actually looks somewhat....good? The current makeup looks like this:
RHP: Craig Kimbrel, Seranthony Dominguez, Andrew Bellatti, Connor Brogdon, Nick Nelson, Sam Coonrod
LHP: Jose Alvarado, Matt Strahm, Bailey Falter
Nelson, Coonrod and Bellatti are probably the guys that are inheriting the fifth and sixth innings, if they are needed during those frames. It’s the end of games that the team has their strength. Having pitchers like Dominguez, Alvarado, Kimbrel, Brogdon and Strahm available in the back allows Rob Thomson to mix and match as he sees fit. Going on past experience, they might want to give Kimbrel the lion’s share of save opportunities, but a glance at his Baseball Savant page gives one pause.
That’s an awful lot of blue in places you don’t really want to see blue in. There’s also the idea that he’s starting to lose a little zip on the fastball, the pitch that has been his bread and butter the past few years.
We don’t know if it’s enough right now for the team to not hand the closer’s job over to him, but it should be enough to at least give them pause before doing so. Of course, if they entered into an agreement with him while discussing what his role is, one has to at least assume they’ve had a discussion about roles in 2023.
One has to think this is final big money move for the team in free agency since it puts them rather close to the next tier in the luxury tax penalties. Fangraphs has them right now at ~$240 million before arbitration cases are settled, giving them roughly $10-13 million in in-season wiggle room to make further additions if needed. There will probably be some more one-year deals for relievers that gives them some depth, but as far as adding someone else, we’d have to think they’re about done. Is it enough to keep pace with the Mets and Braves? We’ll just have to see.