Chicago Cubs Sign Craig Kimbrel

by Keith Lott
Chicago Cubs Sign Craig Kimbrel

It is now June 5th and free agent closer Craig Kimbrel has finally agreed to a new 3-yr/$43 mil contract with the Chicago Cubs.

You wouldn't think one of the greatest closers in the last decade, and possibly all-time, would have had so much trouble finding a new home! I get it though, teams did not want to lose a draft pick.

There were numerous other relief pitchers signed this offseason, including:

Adam Ottavino (Yankees 3-yr/$27 mil)
David Robertson (Phillies 2-yr/$23 mil)
Andrew Miller (Cardinals 2-yr/$25 mil)
Kelvin Herrera (White Sox 2-yr/$18)
Cody Allen (Angels 1-yr/$8 mil)
Joe Kelly (Dodgers 3-yr/$25 mil)
Zack Britton (Yankees 3-yr/$39 mil)

Chicago Cubs Sign Craig Kimbrel

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Fantasy Baseball Impact

Kimbrel joins Pedro Strop (back from injury) and gives the Cubs bullpen a huge upgrade.

A.J. had the Cubs listed as Hammered Wingmen on the Fantasy Baseball Closer Chart.

It is safe to say that the Cubs have sobered up.

According to FanGraphs, the Cubs bullpen has pitched to the tune of a 4.29 xFIP this season which is not great, not terrible.

However, their 10.6% K-BB% is one of the worst in the league.

Strop earned a save in his return yesterday, and along with Steve Cishek leads the team with five.

Tough break for those of you who just added Strop on your roster(s).


We have seen Kimbrel's BB% go over 12% in two of the last three seasons. That brings his career BB% up to 9.8%. If he can stay at or below a 10% walk rate, he should be able to keep his ERA below 3.00 (career 1.96) and his WHIP closer to his career average of 0.92 or better.

His 2017 season was an outlier and we should probably expect the soon to be 31-year-old to pitch more like he did last year, than he did two seasons ago.

A lot of his numbers are trending in the wrong direction in recent years. However, he is still converting saves and has a high strikeout rate.

My least favorite stat is his GB%, which used to sit in the 40s, but he hasn't done that in three years and been below 30% in two of the three. As one would expect, with more flyballs comes more home runs allowed, and his HR/9 has been trending up. Even in 2017, his HR/FB% was greater than 12% and that repeated itself last year.

All that being said, there are just four closers in baseball with 100+ saves over the last three seasons.

Kenley Jansen208.212612.737%
Edwin Diaz191.010914.239%2.642.562.552.2117.8%
Craig Kimbrel184.110814.942%2.442.432.622.1617.5%
Wade Davis167.110211.030%2.903.203.623.2813.6%

Steamer Projections

Before signing with the Cubs, Steamer projected Kimbrel to pitch 65 innings with a 2.85 ERA, 97 strikeouts, 27 walks, 6 home runs allowed, 2.80 FIP and 1.3 WAR.

Updated Steamer rest of season projections have Kimbrel at 21 saves with 58 strikeouts in 37 innings, leading to a 2.87 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.

There are only 10 other closers projected to save 20+ games from here on out.

It is amazing to me that it took this long for a team to sign Craig Kimbrel.

I understand he was demanding big bucks and a draft pick, but he has been one of the best closers since 2011.

Now let's see how long it takes for him to read to close MLB games!

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