Craig Kimbrel

What exactly is left to say about The Kraken? Craig Kimbrel is absurdly good at his job. Just stupid good. Craig Kimbrel is about to get really expensive. At some point in either the very near, or not quite very near but nontheless near future, Craig Kimbrel will be too expensive for a mid-market payroll such as the Atlanta Braves to keep. At some point, the math stops working and the smart move is to flip him.

At that point, someone else will close in Atlanta and Craig Kimbrel will get paid a whole lot of cash to close in New York, Detroit or LA. That will be something akin to having to go back to Cinemax After Dark after spending four or five years soaking up the offerings of YouPorn. It will not be…satisfying. But it will happen, and you might as well get used to it.

Kimbrel is currently 3+ million removed from his valuation of his arbitration services and the team’s valuation of same. That bodes poorly. I suspect he will lose the arb case, play another season in Atlanta, and be traded before 2015. Soak up the hardcore while you can, kids.

78 thoughts on “Craig Kimbrel”

  1. The thing about trading Kimbrel is, you don’t want to do it prematurely. I understand the Braves not wanting to blow a huge wad of money on a closer, but at the moment they can afford him. If they flipped him for minor leaguers while trying to win a pennant, they’d have a mess on their hands.

  2. I’d be more concerned with losing Kimbrel if the Braves used him correctly but pretty much the lasting image is him telling Ed Perez “Yeah I’m fucking pissed because I told him I’d go in the 8th!”… There’s no use having the best in the game if you’re not going to use him. May as well flip him for a prospect while we can.

  3. Now that Freeman and generations of Freemans are set for life, will he be pressured to live up to the contract and put up a .650 OPS through July?


  4. That’s a really good piece from SB Nation. I also strongly suspect that the Braves are acting as if today’s market rates will be tomorrow’s bargain basement prices. I think they rightly consider the looming arbitration hearings with players like Kimbrel, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper to be bellweathers of higher prices for younger players in the future. You don’t want to go into Arb2 with Freddie Freeman the year after Trout established $12-3 mil precedent for Arb1.

  5. The thing about Freddie is, his entire value is in his bat, and he just had a career year — it makes sense for him to lock in his $100 million. For Jason, to this point, a great deal of his value is in defense and baserunning, and there is a common belief that he has not yet reached his offensive peak — so it makes sense for him to wait until he has had a career year with the bat. By buying out his arb years, the Braves essentially just bought themselves a negotiating window.

  6. @9,

    I think relief pitchers generally-and particularly Kimbrel-would be more valuable if they were used “correctly” but let’s face it-if Carpenter gets Uribe out and Kimbrel closes it out, no one would be complaining that he didn’t come in in the 8th. Probably 95% of managers would have done exactly what Freddi did in that situation; it’s not as if you were bringing in a guy that had sucked all year. I agree that, given the circumstances, Kimbrel should have come in, but it’s not as if Freddi was waving the white flag by having Carpenter pitch. It just didn’t work out.

    Unfortunately, the reason someone like Kimbrel is not worth breaking the bank over is because managers don’t use them “correctly.” I read a comment by a manager the other day who said (and I’m paraphrasing a little) that it just makes life easier if you have defined roles in the bullpen. In other words, it spares the manager from having to think. It’s certainly not just Freddi. Plus, given the rigidity of roles in today’s bullpens, I suspect Freddi was thinking about what it would do to Carpenter’s psyche in the long run if he didn’t trust him enough to pitch the 8th. It’s easy to say that’s bullshit but managers do have to consider things like that-although perhaps an elimination game in the playoffs is not the right time to worry about it. But baseball managers are not like football coaches; they are less educated in general and the culture of the sport supports making decisions by instinct rather than analysis. Freddi may or may not be worse than the average manager but I don’t think his thinking is too far off the norm.

  7. @14 Agreed. If he puts together a great season this year, his deal could make Freddie’s look like peanuts.

  8. I don’t believe Freddie’s entire value is in his bat. (cue meme oriented joke about bats.) I believe Freddie has real defensive value at 1B that is missed by range metrics. Notably he’s a vacuum cleaner over there that catches everything that’s thrown at him. (cue meme oriented joke about vacuuming, suction, Freddie doing the splits, etc, et al.)

    I’m sorry about all of this, Alex.

  9. On the Andrelton highlight reel @20 I counted 13 defensive gems where Simmons made a throw directly from SS to 1B. On 9 of them, Freddie Freeman made a better than average play on the receiving end to convert the out. This is why I think defensive metrics undervalue Freeman at 1B.

  10. @10, 12, 15 – since I basically recycled an old Arrested Development gag, I’ll give credit to Dr. Tobias Fünke, Analyst of Baseball. The world’s first Analball!

  11. @23 – because he’s moving out of his Buckhead bachelor’s pad into a mansion he bought from Derek Fisher in 2012. This isn’t Uggla selling his ATL digs. This is newly married Uggla moving to the suburbs.

  12. I agree, Sam, I do think that Freddie has value in his glove. He’s clearly a very good receiver, tall with a long wingspan and a very good stretch. And he probably has poor range, though I don’t put much faith in the degree to which UZR despises his defense. I don’t particularly believe that incremental improvements in first base defense add a lot of wins on the margins.

    But in any event, Freddie got paid because of the way he hits. If he didn’t, he would have gotten a James Loney contract.

  13. I’m a huge Kimbrel fan from another NL East city. The guy is simply the best closer in the game and no one’s even close. I hate when a small or mid-level team has to trade somebody because they can no longer afford him, but that’s what it looks like is going to happen. I can’t see the Braves trading him within the NL and having to face him to get to a WS, but I hope they don’t trade him to the Yankees.

  14. 16: I for one was cursing Fredi when the TV feed picked back up with Carpenter on the mound in the eighth. Bad process, bad result.

  15. At 1B, if I had to choose between mad range & being able to scoop/make outs on lousy throws, I’ll take the latter. And yeah, you better be able to hit with power.

    From previous thread…
    Yeah, worst day of Young’s career, for sure. But I remember watching that game from upstairs at Sanford Stadium & seeing all those receivers go downfield on every play was a little terrifying. For Dooley-era UGA fans, it was like watching a UFO invasion — a totally alien concept.

    Luckily, BYU never had enough guys blocking for Young & he was chased, hurried, rushed, etc., into making some really bad tosses. BYU’s offense only scored 1 TD, the other was on an INT return.

    Even with all that, we were still pretty lucky to win that game, 17-14. Thank you, Kevin Butler & Mike Weaver.

  16. @16

    I understand that Freddy only did what everyone does and that it’s so ingrained in baseball culture that not many people batted an eye to it but it only reinforces the point about not paying for “closers”. Right now, we have a guy doing the job better than pretty much anyone not named Rivera has done ever and he’s even more unhittable than Rivera was and that’s great considering he was on a rookie deal for 3 years. Now that he’s about to get paid however, you have to start thinking about how you’re using your resources. Investing in Kimbrel would take something significant and you’d be investing in a highly replaceable skill. Granted, no one right now is near as good as him but there’s tons of guys who come off the scrap heap capable of getting 3 outs with no one on base.

    Basically my point is that if you used Kimbrel correctly there’s a lot of scenarios where he’s worth 15-20 million/year (which is probably what he’ll run on the open market) but if you’re just gonna slot him into the 9th inning and let him watch someone not as good give up the go ahead homer in an elimination game then what’s the point of paying for him? Hopefully the front office is savvy enough to realize that even if they can’t convince the manager to utilize him correctly they can at least allocate the resources to more vital areas and possibly pick up some top prospects along the way.

  17. @30,

    I agree with you entirely. If you used guys like Kimbrel correctly all the time, you might not need guys like Carpenter as much. On the other hand, you might blow out Kimbrel’s arm. But it worked ok for Goose Gossage in the 70s.

  18. It’s not about throwing him more innings, it’s just putting him in high leverage situations. The playoff game is obviously the biggest example of this but it’s true throughout the year. Obviously you wouldn’t push him to 2 innings a lot but in that situation there really wasn’t an excuse not to considering he’d pitched 1 inning in like 10 days going into that game.

    Another problem with doing that though is the player doesn’t like coming in in non save situations because closers get paid on saves. It’s just more nonsensical baseball tradition that rewards arbitrary stats.

  19. Unless you have a better way of getting players paid, they’re going to want to do the things that get them paid. And going with “roles in the pen” isn’t the manager refusing to “think.” It’s the manager recognizing that human beings have to be managed differently than cogs in a random order machine.

    Also, David Carpenter was really good last year.

  20. Carpenter was tremendous last year, but he definitely looked a bit gassed at the end of the year, and if we could see that, I’m sure Fredi and Roger McDowell could too. Playoff elimination games are not necessarily the ideal time and place to engage in confidence-building measures.

    “Roles in the pen” generally make a lot of sense: they help keep your players mentally prepared over the course of the long season. Of course, being the manager means you constantly have to evaluate whether you should keep your player in the role or whether you should make a change.

  21. So is it going to be Mauricio ‘Cinemax’ Cabrera or J.R. ‘Softcore’ Graham? I’m confused

  22. @33

    Hence my point, if that’s the way it’s going to be then don’t pay for suboptimal strategy.

    Also I think we can agree that even though Carpenter was great last year he’s not as good as Kimbrel. And as Alex said he’d looked kinda gassed the last few games and given all this there really isn’t a viable reason why he was in the 8th inning in game 4 and Kimbrel was yelling at Eddie Perez in the pen.

  23. Man, I had gone at least a month without remembering Fredi bringing out Carpenter. So mad again.

    I will counter the whole “Fredi just did what any other manager would do” excuse and point out all the times Torre/Girardi brought Rivera out for 3+ outs in the playoffs. And Carpenter had looked like garbage.

  24. It’s so amusing that teams are willing to pay great one relief pitcher so much more than another great one of the around the same age, just because the former is an almighty Closer™.

    It never will make any sense.

  25. Players aren’t cogs but they also shouldn’t be so rigid that they can’t adapt to different roles. These are, after all, major league players.

    But I don’t really see the crime in having Carpenter pitch the 8th. As I recall, he was facing the bottom of the order; it’s not like he was going through Puig and Gonzalez. Granted, Kimbrel had not pitched and was strong but having him pitch two innings was not something he is used to. What if he had struggled in the 8th and then had to go out and face the meat of the order in the 9th. Just because Carpenter failed-and Kimbrel was complaining-doesn’t necessarily mean it was a terrible move.

    It seems to me there is a simple way to change the incentives for players and managers. Just save the change rule so that you can’t get one for one inning with more than a one-run lead. There is no reason a pitcher should be rewarded for holding a team to two runs in one inning.

  26. @12 Great article. We all thought first base is the easiest position to play among all (which I think it’s still true), but it is surprising to find out how shallow the talent pool is at that position.

  27. “Relief ace” seems like a legitimate role to me. There’s no reason why “bullpen roles” can only be defined by inning boundaries.

  28. @40

    Carpenter came in with 4-5-6 in the lineup. Got Gonzalez out, Puig doubled and Uribe homered. That defense won’t work either.

  29. My favorite snippet from yesterday, not that we didn’t already know this:

    GM Frank Wren explained that the team’s $135MM extension of first baseman Freddie Freeman was the culmination of months of planning and, potentially, the first of several moves designed to maintain the club’s core. “We’re looking at how we can keep our team together, especially our young, homegrown players,” said Wren. “And we looked at how we could strategize to make that happen.” Of particular importance, the GM acknowledged, is the team’s new stadium plans. “There is also an element of the new situation in Cobb County that allows us to be more competitive, and I think it’s evident by this signing,” Wren said.

  30. 34 – I disagree that Carp looked gassed at the end of the year. Before Game 2 Carpenter’s last 11 appearances (including game 1) 10IP, 2H, 0BB, 0R, 11K.

  31. @41,

    It seems to me that first-base defense is often undervalued. A good first baseman can really help the infield, both tangibly-preventing throwing errors-and intangibly-providing comfort to infielders that their throws need not be perfect. I suspect Yankee infielders in the 1960s did not enjoy having a crippled Mickey Mantle at first base. Range, it seems to me, is less critical, although in the Braves’ case, with Uggla playing second, it would probably be nice to have a first baseman with a lot of range.

  32. A good point of comparison is the Mets current woes at first base. They have Ike Davis, who forgot how to hit (but can play defense). They have Lucas Duda, who can kind of hit but has an allergic reaction to leather. They have put both on notice this spring that if they don’t play well in Florida they’re gone, and rightly so.

    Think of all of those plays Andrelton makes in the hole. How he gloves, flips and guns in one motion. He does that without any consideration whatsoever that it will get past Freddie at first, so long as it’s in the area. Freeman literally makes the defense at short (and 2B and 3B) better.

  33. The reason that the talent pool for first base is light is that first base is the bottom of the defensive spectrum: mostly, it’s where people end up after their athletic days are behind them. So the majority of people who are already stuck in a first base/DH role in high school, college, or the minors are likely not going to last very long in the major leagues, if they ever reach it.

    Many of the best first basemen in a given period will have come up as corner players — third basemen, left fielders, etc. Think Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, even Jim Thome. Just because there aren’t many good 1Bs in the minors now doesn’t mean there won’t be many good 1Bs in the majors in five years. It just means that the people who wind up at 1B will be converted to that position rather than naturals at it.

    I’m sure that Freddie saves runs with his glove. But he creates a lot more with his bat than he ever saves with his glove, and that’s true for virtually all 1Bs.

  34. I think of corner IF as positions where reflexes and good hands are much more important than range. A large number of balls hit there are hit very hard, and range takes a back seat to reaction time. I think Freeman is way above average defensively. The dozen or so balls in the hole between 1st and 2nd that he might not get to aren’t going to matter in the big picture.

  35. I think we have some inertial carry-over from the “it’s easy to find a quality 1B” from the Sillyball era. It’s hard to find a guy that slugs 550, much less 650 these days.

  36. @50 I’d argue that the 1B talent pool also appears thin because the number of baseball players who can put up the offensive production you’d expect from a 1B or a DH (say .800 – .850 OPS) has dropped considerably in recent years. There just aren’t that many power bats in baseball anymore, across the board, and you see that most clearly at the positions which harbor the lumbering slugger types, 1B/DH.

    EDIT: Sounds like you guys covered this ground while I was composing my oh-so-eloquent discourse. Oh well.

  37. By the way, here’s Keith Law on Mauricio Cabrera:

    Mauricio Cabrera, RHP | Atlanta Braves
    Top 2013 level: Low Class A (Rome)

    Cabrera sits 95-100 mph as a starter with exceptional arm strength that would probably make him a top-five pick if you threw him in a typical draft class. His curveball and changeup are still developing, the change further along, and he’s learning how to pitch rather than just blow guys away with heat.

    The arm strength is extraordinary, and Cabrera will pitch all of 2014 at age 20, with a high ceiling if he can start to convert his physical ability into practical baseball skills.

  38. I love me some Mike Minor. I just love me some Julio and Andrelton juuuust a smidge more.

  39. We do need to lockup the pitchers before they get expensive. Even “meh” pitchers get $17MM now.

  40. IMO, Simmons is priority #1. He’ll be here a long time & should improve his superhacker approach at the plate.

    Another issue for guys who became 1Bs: Throwing.

    Tony Perez & Steve Garvey came up as 3Bs, but couldn’t throw accurately. And even at 1B, Garvey, in particular, always seemed to shy away from throwing. Compared to top 1Bs like Keith Hernandez, he often had half as many assists.

  41. Oh and re: Kimbrel and the write up, if he can be traded for a spectacular DP partner to go with Simmons, you might find the result worth watching.

  42. #67
    Yup, Ralph Kiner died today. He was a helluva hitter and, as an announcer, he could be a walking malaprop, occasional master of the obvious, but a terrific storyteller.

    Supposedly, he came up with the famous Garry Maddox quote. My fave: After watching Mets RF Dave Kingman awkwardly kick a routine single into 2 bases for the hitter, he said, “Let’s face it, Kingman needs a map & a flashlight to play outfield.”

  43. Seems to me the Braves talk up the defense of every first baseman. There was Adam “soft hands” LaRoche, Gold Glover Teixeira, Kotchman, now Freeman…and every single one of them was/is apparently the best at scooping balls out of the dirt ever.

  44. @70 I thought Kotchman was not very good in that area…or I may be wrong…but ever since Sid, the Braves have valued defense at first base. McGriff has never been known for his defense…and let’s not forget Robert Fick!!!

  45. It’s the classic sort of Cox thing to do — find a way of complimenting every single one of your players. “He’s really, really good at catching the ball” is a great way to do that.

    There was no way to say it about Ken Caminiti, sadly.

  46. @50 It is definitely being perceived that way, but Chipper would never make it through the game if we had asked him to play at first base. Mike Piazza gave up the switch if I remember right? I don’t think everybody can play first base, but I think the switch would be the easiest if the player is a catcher or a third baseman. At the end of the day, first base is the third busiest defensive position behind pitcher and catcher (but pitchers and catchers do not play everyday like a first baseman).

    But your point is still valid. The talent pool is bigger than it looks.

  47. Piazza wanted to remain a catcher because he clearly took pride in being a catcher. For him to accept the move to first would have required him to basically admit that he sucked at catcher. It’s pretty much the same reason Jeter didn’t want to move to third to make room for A-Rod.

  48. Piazza was TERRIBLE at first. Think Todd Hundley in LF bad.

    Ken Caminiti was even worse. Couldn’t make the transition from gold glove at third to moderately adequate at first. Was truly horrific. Said the spins were backwards on the ball. Grated, he was addicted to crack at the time…

  49. How has ‘the Kraken’ nickname not caught on with a wider audience? It’s fantastic.

    Also I’m not too worried about the Braves ability to cope post- Kimbrel; the organization has a knack for improvisation in lean times. Using the occasional soft tossing lefty, for instance.

  50. I have a feeling this guy will make the team this year:

    53.1 IP, 22 BB, 82 K, 0.994 WHIP, 1.69 ERA

    these are his numbers from his age 22 season in AA and AAA.

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