Cubs utility man David Bote reacted likely the same way that Cubs fans did when finding out the team reportedly signed free agent closer Craig Kimbrel.
“Len and JD (Cubs TV broadcasters Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies) go ‘Well, there’s a lot of murmur on Twitter going that Ken Rosenthal reported that Cubs pending a physical sign Kimbrel,’ and I was like, sick,” Bote said emphatically. “That’s awesome, super excited.
“You’ve seen what he does, there’s nothing to say. His reputation speaks for itself.”
Kimbrel’s reputation does speak for itself: 333 career saves (No. 14 all-time in MLB history) and 1.91 ERA (No. 5 in MLB history) in 532 2/3 innings. And for a Cubs team with 11 blown saves this season, Kimbrel should represent nothing but a boost for the bullpen.
“It’s definitely a boost, just obviously when you sign Craig Kimbrel, with what he’s done, winning the World Series last year and what he’s done throughout his career is amazing,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It’s definitely a big boost for us and just lengthens everything out once he gets here and gets settled in.
To Rizzo’s point, having Kimbrel in the fold lengthens the Cubs’ relief corps, giving manager Joe Maddon a plethora of options leading up to the ninth inning. Now, Maddon has Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler, Brad Brach, Carl Edwards Jr. available in non-save spots.
With Pedro Strop out for most of May with a hamstring strain and Brandon Morrow on the shelf following a setback from offseason elbow surgery recovery, Maddon had less proven late-game arms available. Thus, before the Cubs added Kimbrel, Maddon had to use one of, if not several of, Cishek, Kintzler and Brach in majority of the team’s close games.
Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester said that adding Kimbrel will lengthen the team’s bullpen.
“I think really the only thing that this move does is lengthen our bullpen,” Lester said. “Now it takes a little bit of pressure off of us as starters when we don’t have our good stuff, where we’re grinding and we’ve got to fill that hole to get to that back end, we’re able to do that probably a little bit easier than we have been.
“Now our bullpen gets a little bit deeper. You’re not worried about matching guys up, and ‘What about tomorrow?’ I feel like we’re able to play that game a little bit more now that we have [Kimbrel], we have [Pedro Strop] back now.” This is a huge boost for us. I hope he can get here soon and get in uniform."
If you based it solely on Cubs Twitter, the sky was falling in Wrigleyville following the team’s 2-7 start to the 2019 season. The Cubs righted the ship with a 32-19 stretch since April 7, however, and both Lester and Rizzo discussed the front office’s belief in the team being a factor in adding Kimbrel.
“I think us playing well and getting to this point that we’re at right now, I think that puts us in a good situation,” Lester said. “I think if we’re not playing that well and our record is a little bit different, that probably changes their outlook on things."
Lester didn’t let the moment slip by without poking fun at PECOTA’s 79-83 projection for the 2019 team.
“That’s a testament to these guys in this clubhouse to get us to this, I guess kind of this juncture, and I don’t want to say put pressure on [the front office] to make a move, but maybe just raise some awareness that we are a lot better than whatever that computer program said we were going to be and we’re in a good position to make a move."
“It’s a credit to them believing in us and credit to us, especially I feel like our hitters,” Rizzo said. “We go through ups and downs, but they believe in us as a unit and to go get a closer like him is a boost for us hitters too.
"We’re trying to win the last game of the season this year, the World Series. It’s not just get to the playoffs and hope for the best. Our expectations are set through the roof."
The Cubs mantra for the 2019 season is "Every Game Matters." For a team that just acquired one of the best shutdown closers MLB has ever seen, their belief in that idea should now be more clear than ever.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.