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: Red Sox interested in a reunion with Rick Porcello

MLB Rumors: Red Sox interested in a reunion with Rick Porcello

The Boston Red Sox may be trying to cut some payroll this offseason, but that isn't going to stop them from targeting some free agents. And that may include one of their own.

According to Jason Mastrodonato of The Boston Herald, the Red Sox are having talks with Rick Porcello about a potential reunion. While the Red Sox may be interested in Porcello, Mastrodonato wrote that "it's unclear how aggressive the Red Sox will be in their pursuit."

He also noted that a short-term, incentive-based contract may make sense for both sides.

Porcello, soon to be 31, has spent the past five seasons with the Red Sox after being acquired in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson, and Gabe Speier. He won the Cy Young Award in his second year with the team, 2016, but he has had issues in the seasons since that campaign.

In 2019, Porcello endured his worst campaign as a pro, logging a career-worst 5.52 ERA and 7.4 K/9, his worst mark since joining the Red Sox. Still, he posted a 14-12 record and still profiles as a solid back-end starter because of his ability to eat innings.

We'll soon see if the Red Sox end up being involved in the Porcello sweepstakes. If they are involved, they will have competition and may find themselves facing off with the likes of the New York Mets, who reportedly have an interest in Porcello.

Where Porcello ranks among the MLB's top 10 free agent starting pitchers>>>

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Travis Shaw says return to Boston Red Sox 'makes sense on paper'

Travis Shaw says return to Boston Red Sox 'makes sense on paper'

After being non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers, could a return to the Boston Red Sox be in order for Travis Shaw?

With Mitch Moreland hitting free agency, the Red Sox should be in the market for a left-handed-hitting first baseman. That makes Shaw an obvious fit, and the 29-year-old agrees a reunion with Boston would make sense.

Shaw discussed the situation with Rob Bradford on WEEI's Bradfo Sho podcast

"I got non-tendered this week. It was kind of a hard decision. The Brewers did offer me but I decided I kind of wanted a fresh start and was willing to risk to see what was out there free agent-wise," Shaw told Bradford. "Just wanted a fresh start after everything that happened last year. Like you said, [signing with the Red Sox] makes sense on paper now we’ll see with who else call or what other teams call. That’s kind of what we’re sorting through now. We’ve had quite a bit of interest so far over this week which is an encouraging sign for me. We’ll just go from there."

Before the 2017 season, the Red Sox traded Shaw to the Brewers in the deal that brought reliever Tyler Thornburg to Boston. In his first two years with Milwaukee, Shaw was an integral part of the offense with 30+ home runs and an OPS well above .800. Last season, however, Shaw missed some time with a wrist injury and saw his production dip significantly.

Assuming Shaw can return to the type of player we saw in '17 and '18, he makes for an intriguing option for Boston in free agency. Along with his potential at the plate, Shaw brings versatility to the table as he can adequately play multiple positions.

Right-handed sluggers Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec currently are the Red Sox' options at first base. Chavis was solid in his 2019 rookie campaign, and Dalbec enters 2020 as one of the organization's top prospects.

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