No matter what, you could always count on Craig Kimbrel to thrill you right out of your seat. Most of the time, that was a good thing.
If Kimbrel never dons a Red Sox uniform again, I will try like heck to make sure that my lasting memory of him is all the times he entered games in the ninth inning, held him his right arm way out to his side as he glared mercilessly at hitters in the batter’s box, and then ferociously blew them away with a barrage of triple-digit fastballs. Kimbrel did that a lot over the last three seasons, and watching it never got old.
What will I try to forget? All the times he entered games during the 2018 postseason, and performed so poorly that he nearly brought Boston’s World Series hopes crashing down around them. Game Four of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium stands out prominently in my mind, when Kimbrel nearly allowed a walk-off grand slam to Gary Sanchez that would’ve sent the series back to Fenway Park. Luckily, the ball was caught just short of the wall, and the Red Sox still won the World Series despite Kimbrel’s consistent ineffectiveness.
Most of the time, I try to be a “big picture” kind of guy, and the fact of the matter is that the Red Sox had one of the best closers of all time coming out of their bullpen during the last three seasons.
But now, Kimbrel is hitting the free agent market, and he’s trying to make the most of it. He’s shooting for the stars with his free agent demands, trying to fleece some poor franchise into giving him a six-year contract worth $100 million. For a relief pitcher — even for one of Kimbrel’s standards — that is an insane contract to give out.
And it seems like that is the general consensus among MLB teams, as nobody has jumped to make Kimbrel that offer. In fact, there isn’t any indication teams have been in the same city as that offer, never mind the same neighborhood. The Red Sox have been just as cautious. Even if Kimbrel is a future Hall of Famer, the Red Sox can find another relief pitcher to close out games almost as effectively as he can, and it would cost them about a third of the amount of money that Kimbrel wants.
Forget about it. Even though Kimbrel will have to end up lowering his demands, the Red Sox have no need to really even concern themselves with the situation. If the market falls to the point where Kimbrel will re-sign on a team-friendly deal, that’s one thing. But the last thing they should do is bend over backwards to get Kimbrel back in a Red Sox uniform. Heck, they shouldn’t even slightly crouch.
As a Red Sox fan, I thank Kimbrel for the memories. The vast majority of them were positive. A handful of them were not so good. But as I said earlier, you could always count on him to take you for a thrill ride.
With that being said, if Kimbrel isn’t with Boston in 2019, I won’t lose a minute of sleep over it. The Kimbrel era was fun, but it just feels like it’s time to close the door and move on.
I never try to prolong something that has already run its course, and the Red Sox shouldn’t either.