Red Sox

Drellich: Where is Craig Kimbrel's market?

Drellich: Where is Craig Kimbrel's market?

More teams should be tripping over themselves to sign Craig Kimbrel. Not at the six-year, $100 million price point that was floated in reports in December. But Kimbrel is worth a pretty penny, despite criticism around him and his love of the save. 

Instead, his market appears ridiculously small for someone so dominant — a characterization put forth here, mind you, by someone who has often criticized Kimbrel’s willingness to pitch outside of save situations.

If Kimbrel, who received a qualifying offer, does wind up back on the Red Sox with few strong alternatives, we'll probably have another reminder that the game’s free agency system is in need of repair. 

“Crazy low,” one American League executive said. “The support that you have [in organizations] to pay people is getting worse. Feels like a war coming if the sight lines don't change for the better.”

A return to Boston appears more probable for Kimbrel now that David Robertson has gone to Philadelphia, a return that could be seen brewing as far back as the winter meetings. Good for the Sox and their pocketbook, if they did sniff out Kimbrel's market appropriately.

But should it be this way, as good players appear unwanted relative to their ability? Did J.D. Martinez's stalled market and the Sox' capitalization last winter not show rivals anything?

In a down year, Kimbrel still had the second-best contact rate in the majors in 2018, trailing only Hector Neris among pitchers with at least 40 innings thrown. At 62.7 percent, Kimbrel was ahead of Josh Hader and Edwin Diaz. 

He’s also an all-time leader in basically every pitching category, depending on where you set your innings limit. Put it to 500 innings, and Kimbrel is tops all-time in the live-ball era in K/9 (14.67), FIP (1.96), batting average against (.153). The list goes on like this.

The Braves, up-and-coming as an organization and Kimbrel's first major league team, likely would rather fill an outfield spot or rotation spot with the money it would take to land him, if they even have that money available to spend. Kimbrel, too, would cost the Braves a draft pick, and the Braves lost their third-round pick in the 2018 draft because of a scandal in the international market.

We could probably explain away a bunch of other teams’ interest, as well. Which returns us to a greater underlying problem.

Kimbrel's case is just another poor reflection on the state of affairs between teams and players, on a system that puts no calendar limits on the free agency signing period, on a system in which teams remain incentivized financially and otherwise to avoid players like Kimbrel — unless they’re a projected winner immediately.

There are absolutely question marks about the individual. Kimbrel wants saves. He wants to be in the Hall of Fame. Those two achievements are tied together for relievers, at least for now, making the former desire more understandable.

Even when considering the potential for decline for a power pitcher like Kimbrel entering his age-31 season — actually, let’s stop right here. 

If you’ve been following baseball at any point now for the better part of two decades, and certainly during this one, you understand how player valuations work. How every club seeks efficiency, a change inevitable because they’re large businesses and so on and so forth. How older players are less desirable.

But we’re also hitting a point where penny pinching and value hunting seems, in a basic way, counterintuitive from a baseball perspective, which is what most people are here for. Instead, efficient spending seems to be taking over the game to an extreme.

In Kimbrel, teams will find a reliever with an unbelievable track record, one of the most overpowering and consistent forces to grace a bullpen in the game’s history. Any team that signs him will gain a pitcher who has been remarkably healthy, and if he continues to be healthy, should be a remarkably high-level contributor.

Closers may go by the wayside for some teams, but really good pitchers who help bullpens won't.

The going price can't be astronomical, like six years, but the market seems too dry regardless.

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MLB Rumors: RHP Sergio Romo drawing interest from Red Sox

MLB Rumors: RHP Sergio Romo drawing interest from Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox reportedly have their eye on a veteran reliever in free agency.

Right-hander Sergio Romo is drawing significant interest from multiple teams including Boston, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. A deal is expected to get done during the Winter Meetings this week.

Tomase: Are Sox interested in bringing back Porcello?

Romo played for the Rays in 2017 and 2018 when new Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom was in the Tampa Bay front office. The 36-year-old was used as an "opener" in five games during that '18 campaign.

Last season with the Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins, Romo tallied 20 saves and posted a 3.43 ERA in appearances.

For his 12-year career, Romo boasts a 2.92 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He was a World Series champion with the San Francisco Giants in 2012 and an All-Star in 2013.

Tomase: Sox offseason plans could come into focus this week>>>

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MLB Rumors: Former Red Sox OF Daniel Nava pitching comeback, trying to beat odds again

MLB Rumors: Former Red Sox OF Daniel Nava pitching comeback, trying to beat odds again

SAN DIEGO — Daniel Nava is no stranger to long odds.

The Red Sox famously bought the former college equipment manager, sight-unseen, for a dollar out of independent ball in 2008. The late bloomer then bashed his way to the big leagues two years later at age 27, launching a grand slam in the first pitch of his first at-bat before playing a key supporting role in the 2013 title.

Now closing in on his 37th birthday, Nava hasn't appeared in the majors since 2017 with the Phillies. He signed with the Pirates in 2018, but a back injury necessitated surgery, which led to an infection, and he ended up spending 18 months on the sidelines.

He made a comeback with the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent American Association last year, hitting .288 in 71 games. That was enough to convince him he's not done, and so this week he's wandering the halls of the Manchester Grand Hyatt at baseball's winter meetings like any other job seeker, albeit one with seven years of service time and a World Series ring.

"It's a funny turn of events to bring it almost full circle to where you're doing the same thing you did at the start," Nava told NBC Sports Boston. "I remember when I sat in (Mike) Hazen's office (in 2008) and he more or less said, 'Why should we keep you?' I had to sell myself on the spot. Fortunately, I don't think it mattered what I said, because they were going to give me a shot. That's what I'm hoping for right now, is just a shot again. It's not like I haven't been here before."

Nava carved out a solid career with the Red Sox, especially given where he started. The 5-10, 195-pound switch hitter spent parts of five seasons in Boston, delivering some memorable hits along the way. In addition to the grand slam off of Philly's Joe Blanton in his debut, he also blasted the game-winning homer vs. the Royals in the emotionally charged return to Fenway after the Marathon bombings in 2013.

"No one saw that team coming," Nava said. "We knew how good we were in that clubhouse, but I don't think anyone outside that clubhouse, especially after that previous season, saw it. We knew we had something special."

Nava said he's fully recovered from the discectomy that sidelined him for all of 2018 and half of 2019. He might have retired to his offseason home in Nashville, but those 71 games of independent ball convinced him otherwise.

"I wanted to see if A, I could still do it, and then B, would a team be interested in me?" Nava said. "A was possible, and now B is what I'm here to trying to see — if I can get one more final look, one more shot."

He's representing himself on this mission alongside fellow independent leaguer Shawn O'Malley, a Kansas City resident and 31-year-old former utilityman with the Angels and Mariners who hustled to San Diego directly from a wedding two hours outside Atlanta to pitch a comeback of his own.

"I do have an agent," Nava said. "But I need to do this in person, so teams can see that physically I'm not dead."

Nava said he has reached out via text to contacts in multiple organizations, including the Red Sox. As if on cue, a member of the team's video staff stopped Nava in the lobby to wish him well.

"More or less text communication, nothing face to face," he said. "Obviously a return back to where everything started would be meaningful, but I understand how this business works."

And to that end, he's willing to start all over in the minors, if that's what it takes, and bring this journey full circle.

"I want a shot," he said. "And I'll take whatever — and I mean whatever — I can get. I'm not going to be a veteran who says, 'How dare I go to the minor leagues?' Having been in a position like this so many years ago, it brings me back to that point of just having a hunger and a desire to want to play, and that's where I'm at right now."