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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Joe Kelly admits Mookie Betts' speech to Dodgers was 'cringey' at times

Joe Kelly admits Mookie Betts' speech to Dodgers was 'cringey' at times

You've probably heard about Mookie Betts' speech by now.

Shortly after the Boston Red Sox traded Betts to Los Angeles, the publicly soft-spoken outfielder stood up in the Dodgers' clubhouse and "essentially call(ed) everyone out," according to third baseman Justin Turner.

By all accounts, the content of Betts' speech was well-received. But Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly -- who was teammates with Betts in Boston before joining L.A. in 2019 -- offered some interesting insight on his delivery.

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"Me and DP (David Price) were looking at each other like -- it was good," Kelly told WEEI's Rob Bradford on "The Bradfo Show" podcast. "It was meant to go the right way, honestly. He's not very -- I don't know how to put it. He speaks well, but then when he has to plan something and speak in front of people he wasn’t too comfortable with, I think he was getting ahead of himself.

"The meaning behind what he was saying was very I think spot on, but I think the way he was saying it was kind of tough."

Betts never was a vocal leader in Boston -- he didn't need to be with David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia in the clubhouse -- and Kelly suggested that showed in the 27-year-old's speech, which perhaps was a little blunt for some.

"It was very well accepted. If he would have said it a little bit nicer or articulated it a little bit better, it would have come off stronger," Kelly said.

"It was kind of, once in a while, cringey. But then we all knew that his meaning behind it was accurate."

Cringey in what way, you ask?

"Some people need to have their hand held the whole time and some people need the, 'eff you;' some people need the, 'You are so good, just believe in yourself' kind of statement," Kelly explained. "And Mookie went the direct path, the direct route in front of 40 people."

Kelly reiterated that Betts got his point across loud and clear: That the Dodgers are the most talented team in baseball and shouldn't squander that talent.

The former American League MVP still is finding his footing as a leader, though, and according to Kelly, that manifested itself on one of his first days as a Dodger.

Report: MLB doesn't want notes from Red Sox investigation used in court

Report: MLB doesn't want notes from Red Sox investigation used in court

As we await Major League Baseball's report on the Red Sox alleged sign-stealing from their 2018 championship season, MLB revealed in court documents that it does not want the notes from its interviews with Red Sox and Houston Astros personnel used in a current trial involving those allegations.

MLB investigator Bryan Seeley argued in a court filing this week that future investigations could be jeopardized if the league reveals details of those interviews, Evan Drellich of The Athletic reports. MLB is being sued by daily fantasy game contestants who argue that the Red Sox' and Astros' schemes corrupted the games.

A decision on the case is expected by April 15. MLB has already disciplined the Astros and it led to the firing of their manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The Red Sox parted ways with manager Alex Cora for what ownership said was his role in the Astros transgressions.  

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred gave Astros players who cooperated with MLB investigators immunity from his discipline. It's uncertain if the same holds true for Red Sox players. Manfred said last week a report on the Red Sox allegations - delayed by the coronavirus outbreak - would be released before the now-delayed baseball season begins.