The Atlanta Braves have made a grave mistake in not signing free agent reliever Craig Kimbrel. The Cubs reportedly have a deal with him for three years, $43 million. The problem with this is, well, it’s extensive because of the issues that are involved, including the Braves’ payroll. They are around the 120 million mark, which is 10 million short of what they finished with last year, around $130 million. We’ve been told throughout the year, and throughout the last couple of years, that the Braves’ payroll would increase because of the revenues from SunTrust Park and from The Battery, and instead they are 10 million below where they were last season.
Now, why can’t they afford a reliever? Where’s that money going? The scary thing about it is, if the Braves were to trade Ender Inciarte and also non-tender Kevin Gausman this off-season, they may be $65 million under the mark they are right now. $65 million coming off the books. Wouldn’t that give them enough money to spend some of that on a reliever? Maybe they just don’t think Craig Kimbrel has it anymore, but he’s a seven-time All-Star who continues to do well. Is he as dominant as he was with the Braves, back from 2010-2014? Well, no, but you know what? He’s still one of the best closers in the game, and I think he’s better than any closer or reliever the Braves have right now.
Kimbrel will now go to the Cubs, and the Braves will have to go out and make a trade for a relieve pitcher. They’ll probably do that, and again, as we’ve talked about here, they’ll probably talk with San Francisco about one of their relievers and starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, who is needed because the problems of both Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman.
The Braves just had an opportunity to bring someone home who wanted to be a Brave. There’s no question in my mind that Craig Kimbrel would’ve taken a smaller deal to come back to Atlanta, the team that he was with at the beginning of his career, and of course, remember, he’s from Alabama, lives in Nashville now, has a place in Atlanta. He wanted to come back and be a Brave. For the Braves, their statistical and analytical approach they’re now using, or whatever, just did not seem to care about giving him a contract, even with that money available.
We’ll see if it backfires on them. If he leads the Cubs to a World Series, or even a pennant in the National League, a lot of people are going to wonder whether Alex Anthopoulos, the GM of the Braves, did the right thing by passing on an opportunity to bring home a true closer in Craig Kimbrel.