Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox: What it means

Well, to those who wondered what type of waves Dave Dombrowski would make with his moves this offseason, tonight is your first glimpse at the answer. The first big waves are just lapping at the New England shore, as the dust settles on the first big move of the Dombrowski era in Boston.

Just a few minutes ago, it was announced that the Boston Red Sox had acquired fireball-closer Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres. This will provide some much-needed bullpen help for the 2016 Red Sox, as this year’s team had a 4.24 ERA from the bullpen, which ranked them number 26 overall in the league.

The Red Sox also desperately need a closer. Koji Uehara is 40 years old and is not the future of this team holding down the closing duties. With no other internal answers for the closer’s job, acquiring Kimbrel seems to be the right move.

Or is it?

The Sox haven’t been great at acquiring closers and putting them to good use — just ask Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey. Before coming to Boston in 2012, Bailey had been steadily good with the Oakland Athletics. Hanrahan had been coming off of his best two seasons of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Both struggled immensely in Boston. Bailey struggled with injuries; Hanrahan with closing games in general.

Kimbrel is coming off of the worst season of his career: 39 saves and a 2.58 ERA. Those numbers aren’t bad, but for what the Red Sox gave up in the deal, it may not be worth it. The Red Sox gave up a ton to get the All-Star closer. Top rospect Manuel Margot is headed for San Diego as part of the trade. So are other top farmhands Logan Allen, Javier Guerra, and Carlos Asuaje. Margot and Guerra are both ranked among the ten best prospects in the Red Sox organization.

While Kimbrel is coming off the worst season of his career, his first with an ERA over 2.50, there is not much reason to believe he has lost anything. The 27-year-old right-hander struck out 87 in 59.1 innings, good for 13.2 strikeouts per nine. So far in Kimbrel’s six-year career, he has struck out 14.5 batters per nine innings. If Kimbrel keeps this pace up through 1,000 career innings, he will be the league’s all-time leader in the statistic.

In the past week, the Red Sox were also linked to Aroldis Chapman, but acquiring Kimbrel is a better choice. Chapman is a free agent after the 2016 season. Kimbrel is signed for two more years with another team option. Over the next three years, it is highly likely that the Red Sox will be ready to contend for another World Series. Adding a young closer was a necessity, and the Red Sox took care of that business before the calendar turned to December.

Quite the start for the Dombrowski regime. The Red Sox still have pressing needs in the starting rotation, but if this early activity is any indication, Boston is in for another busy offseason.

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