Craig Kimbrel signed with the Phillies Sep 13, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Craig Kimbrel against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

While Craig Kimbrel is one of the most accomplished closers in MLB history, he’s also one of the most well-traveled. Kimbrel has pitched for six teams in his career and since the 2021 season, has pitched for the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. Now, we can add another team — the Philadelphia Phillies.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Jeff Passan of ESPN reported on Friday that Kimbrel and the Phillies had come to terms.

“Free-agent reliever Craig Kimbrel in agreement with Phillies, source tells @TheAthletic,” Rosenthal reported. Passan then added the terms of the deal.

“Reliever Craig Kimbrel and the Philadelphia Phillies are in agreement on a one-year, $10 million contract, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN First with the deal: @Ken_Rosenthal,” Passan wrote.

The response to the move was mixed. Tyrone Johnson, a radio and TV show host in Philadelphia, liked the move, tweeting “Low risk move. I like it.” That attitude was shared by Daniel J. Tomaso, a meteorologist in Pennsylvania, who tweeted “Let’s go!!”

There was also a fair amount of skepticism. John Stolnis, who hosts Hittin’ Season, a Phillies podcast, tweeted, “Decking K rate and fastball velo… not really feeling the bullpen moves this off-season. Hopefully he’ll be a good setup guy.”

Others were even less sold on the move. Matt Williams of The GameDay HQ, tweetedCongratulations #Mets and #Braves fans.” D.J. Short of NBC Sports was more factual, tweeting “Avg fastball velocity in 2022: 95.8 mph Lowest strikeout in percentage of his career, by a wide margin.”

There is good reason for skepticism. From 2010-2018, Kimbrel averaged 37 saves a year and had a 1.91 ERA, 0.920 WHIP and a 14.7 K/9 rate. Recent seasons have been a far cry from that. Since 2019, he’s averaged 15 saves a year (though that is somewhat deflated by 2020’s abbreviated season), posted a 3.70 ERA, 1.208 WHIP and a 13.3 K/9 rate. In 2022 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kimbrel notched 22 saves with a 3.75 ERA, 1.317 WHIP and struck out 72 hitters in 60 innings for a K/9 rate of 10.8.

While Philadelphia won the National League pennant in 2022, the bullpen often left a lot to be desired.  Phillies relievers did have a 9.75 K/9 rate, good enough for fifth in baseball. But the Philadelphia bullpen also posted a 4.27 ERA and  1.39 WHIP, which both ranked in the bottom 10 of MLB during the regular season.

Kimbrel is also entering his Age 35 season in 2023. And while his velocity will likely continue to decline, relief pitchers can often age pretty gracefully, as long as they can adjust to their bodies becoming more limited. If Kimbrel can do that for the Phillies in 2023, this should be a good signing.

[Ken Rosenthal, Jeff Passan]

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