It took a few extra months, but Chicago finally landed their big-ticket free agent. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Cubs reached an agreement with closer Craig Kimbrel on a three-year, $43 million contract on Wednesday. It’s also been reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN that the deal includes a vesting/club option for the 2022 season and also contains a $1 million buyout. He'll earn a fully guaranteed $10 million in 2019, and $16 million over each of the next two seasons. The 31-year-old righty will likely spend a few weeks knocking off some rust in the minor leagues, but could be installed as the permanent closer in the Windy City by this time next month, if not sooner.
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There were persistent reports that Kimbrel, who was no longer tied to draft-pick compensation with the completion of the 2019 MLB Draft, was closing in on a final destination in the hours leading up to the signing. Among those reportedly involved in the sweepstakes, the Cubs, whom Rosenthal reported were “pushing hard” towards a deal, appeared the be the clear front-runners. However, the American League Central-leading Twins seemed to be in the mix as well. An unnamed club executive reportedly told Joel Sherman of the New York Post that Kimbrel was a "priority" for the Twins. Clearly, they weren’t willing to meet his lofty demands, but they did come close. Veteran beat reporter Dan Hayes, who covers the Twins for The Athletic, tweeted that he had heard the club was willing to offer Kimbrel a two-year deal, but weren’t willing to increase their offer to three years. Perhaps the most shocking development centered around which teams weren’t involved. According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, neither the Braves or Red Sox were mentioned among the finalists to land the veteran stopper. The fact that he had spent the first five years of his career in Atlanta, juxtaposed by their desperate need for an impact reliever to deploy in high-leverage situations, it seemed like a natural fit. Obviously, there’s still a chance that Kimbrel enjoys a homecoming someday, but it won’t be anytime soon.
Setting aside the toxic combination of ingredients, from draft pick compensation, to a broken free agent system (which could lead to a labor stoppage when the CBA expires in 2021) and reports of an exorbitant asking price, which ultimately led to Kimbrel sitting out nearly half of an entire season, it’s abundantly clear that this is a relatively low-risk deal for the Cubs. Regardless of whether he returns to the vintage form, which made him one of the most dominant pitchers of the last decade, or merely settles in as an elite closer, who battles persistent control issues but ultimately misses enough bats to overcome them, his mere presence will have a massive impact on the Cubs’ bullpen over the remainder of the regular season and postseason. Lefty fireballer Aroldis Chapman spearheaded their bullpen back in 2016, when they took home their first World Series title since 1908. Acquiring his services at the trade deadline cost them shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, who has since blossomed into a perennial All-Star candidate for the Yankees. Rather than meet the increasingly steep demands of a rebuilding franchise, the Cubs have opted to flex their financial muscle, rather than give up a considerable prospect package, to solve their troublesome bullpen. Assuming that the Cubs immediately install Kimbrel as a traditional closer, that will enable them to shift Pedro Strop and Steve Cishek into more natural set-up roles. It also means that injury-plagued veteran Brandon Morrow, who has been throwing from 75-90 feet in his attempt return from recurring elbow issues, becomes a luxury, not a necessity, moving forward. Fantasy owners that invested an early-to-mid round draft pick on Kimbrel in re-draft formats won’t recoup that value over the final three months of the season, but it’s hard to imagine him landing in a better situation than this.
Carrasco Sidelined in Cleveland
The Indians mounted a late-inning comeback to defeat the Twins 9-7 on Wednesday, but their starting rotation was deal another devastating blow on with the news that veteran right-hander Carlos Carrasco was being placed on the 10-day injured list with a non-baseball medical condition. According to a team statement, Carrasco “was recently diagnosed with a blood condition after several weeks of feeling lethargic” and “will step away from baseball activities to explore the optimal treatment and recovery options.” The 32-year-old had emerged as a key cog in the Indians’ rotation over the last few seasons and was among the handful of upper-echelon workhorse starting pitchers selected in the early rounds of fantasy drafts this spring. Over his last three starts, Carrasco had allowed 15 runs (14 earned) on 26 hits, including six home runs. Clearly, something was wrong. As the statement notes, there is no timetable for Carrasco’s return at this time. However, the team does expect him to return at some point this season. From a fantasy perspective, the central question revolves around how quickly he’s able to return and whether he is able to return to the form that made him a legitimate fantasy ace. At this point, it’s simply too early to answer any of those questions.
With Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger and Jefry Rodriguez already sidelined, the Indians rotation is currently comprised of veteran stalwart Trevor Bauer and youngsters Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac. Clevinger is expected to begin a rehab assignment later this week, but he’s still a few weeks away from returning. Cleveland will attempt to fill the cavernous void in their starting rotation with the flotsam and jetsam remaining at Triple-A Columbus, but they trail Minnesota by nine and a half games in the American League Central entering play on Thursday. Unless they make up substantial ground in the next six-to-seven weeks, it doesn’t feel like they will be in a position to sacrifice future assets to supplement their barren rotation at the trade deadline. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for the Cleveland fanbase, which certainly had lofty expectations for this current core. It’s too early to count them out completely, especially considering the high-end talent on the roster, but losing Carrasco for an extended period will have a major impact.
AL Quick Hits: Tommy Pham (leg) told reporters that he's been cleared to play and is expected to return to the Rays’ lineup on Thursday. … Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters that the initial plan when Didi Gregorius returns from his elbow injury is to give him a day off per series. … He also mentioned that it's possible Aaron Judge could return for the series against the Red Sox in London later this month. … Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told reporters that Teoscar Hernandez will be the primary center fielder for the Blue Jays down the stretch. … Hunter Strickland (lat) will throw a live batting practice session before heading out on a rehab assignment. … Yusei Kikuchi will make his next start on Saturday against the Angels. … Jonathan Villar left Wednesday's game against the Rangers with right thumb soreness. … Chris Sale struck out 12 batters and fired a three-hit shutout to lead the Red Sox past the Royals. … Rafael Devers went 2-for-5 with a homer and three RBI in that contest. … Francisco Lindor went 2-for-4 with a home run, a stolen base and three runs scored in the Indians’ win over the Twins. … Jose Ramirez went 2-for-4 with three RBI and a stolen base in that one. … Brad Hand notched his 18th save of the season as well. … Byron Buxton launched a three-run homer in the losing effort. … Delino DeShields went 4-for-6 and delivered a game-winning single in the bottom of the 12th to lead the Rangers past the Orioles. … Randal Grichuk blasted a pair of home runs to lead the Blue Jays past the Yankees. … Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 2-for-4 with a home run, three RBI and three runs scored in that one. … Gary Sanchez clobbered his 19th round-tripper of the season in the Yankees’ loss. … Mike Leake went the distance and threw a six-hitter in the Mariners’ blowout win over the Astros. … Yoan Moncada walloped his 12th long ball of the season in the White Sox’ loss to the Nationals. … Joey Wendle (wrist) will begin his rehab assignment with High-A Charlotte on Thursday. … Justin Upton took live batting practice on Wednesday. … Collin McHugh (elbow) was able to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday. … Jordan Zimmermann (elbow) was scratched from a scheduled rehab start Wednesday at Triple-A Toledo due to left glute tightness. … Tyson Ross will throw a bullpen session on Thursday. … Indians optioned OF Greg Allen to Triple-A Columbus.
NL Quick Hits: Robinson Cano left Wednesday's game against the Giants with tightness in his left quadricep. It was the same quad that had sidelined him for the last two weeks. … Lorenzo Cain left Wednesday's game against the Marlins with a jammed right thumb. … Fernando Tatis Jr. (hamstring) will return to the Padres’ lineup on Thursday. … Charlie Blackmon (calf) began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque on Wednesday. … Zach Eflin (back) is set to return to the Phillies' rotation Friday against the Reds. … Wade Davis (oblique) threw a live batting practice session on Wednesday. … David Bote went 4-for-4 with a three-run homer and seven RBI to lead the Cubs over the Rockies. … David Dahl went 3-for-5 with a triple, a double and three RBI in that contest. … German Marquez was blasted for eight runs over 5 1/3 innings in the loss. … Trea Turner belted a walk-off homer to lift the Nationals to a win over the White Sox. … Juan Soto collected three hits in the victory. … Anibal Sanchez whiffed seven over 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a no-decision. … Gregory Polanco went 3-for-4 with an RBI, a run scored and two stolen bases in the Pirates’ win over the Braves. … Kevin Gausman was lit up for seven runs over five innings in that one. … Brian Anderson went 3-for-4, stole a base and whacked a grand slam to power the Marlins past the Brewers. … Jimmy Nelson surrendered five runs (four earned) over three innings in his first big-league start since the 2017 campaign. … Jay Bruce went deep for the third time in his last three games to propel the Phillies to a win over the Padres. … Josh Naylor went deep twice in the Padres’ loss. … Cal Quantrill fanned seven Phillies over five innings in a no-decision. … Jon Duplantier struck out seven over five innings of two-run ball in a no-decision against the Dodgers. … Will Smith belted a two-run homer in the losing effort. … Jason Vargas struck out eight batters while spinning a complete-game shutout to lead the Mets past the Giants. … Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told reporters that Seranthony Dominguez left Wednesday's game against the Padres with pain in his elbow. … Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said Tuesday that Alex Reyes will make at least one more start with Triple-A Memphis. …Padres placed Matt Strahm on the 10-day injured list with a left rib strain. … Zack Greinke will have his next start pushed from Friday to Saturday. … Giants placed Buster Posey on the 10-day injured list retroactive to June 2 with a right hamstring strain. … Trevor Williams (side) threw a bullpen session on Wednesday. … Peter Lambert will be called up from Triple-A Albuquerque to start for the Rockies on Thursday against the Cubs. … Padres designated Alex Dickerson for assignment.