Veteran reliever Craig Kimbrel and the Orioles are close to an agreement on a free-agent deal, according to a report from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. The team has not confirmed the news.
In the 35-year-old Kimbrel, the Orioles would be adding one of the most decorated relievers in MLB history.
On May 26, he became the eighth pitcher to record 400 saves. He reached that mark in his 730th career game; only Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman secured No. 400 in fewer appearances. About six weeks later, Kimbrel was selected to his ninth All-Star Game, joining a group of 12 other pitchers — and two relievers — who have been chosen for that many Midsummer Classics.
Kimbrel, making the best of a one-year, $10 million contract with the Phillies, was also named the National League Reliever of the Month for June and finished the ‘23 regular season by allowing only two earned runs through 12 September innings.
But Kimbrel’s season hit a familiar low point in October. As he struggled during the NLCS against the D-backs, Philadelphia removed him from the closer’s role. It was a development similar to what happened to Kimbrel with the Dodgers in 2022, when his second-half stumbles led to Los Angeles keeping him off of its NLDS roster.
Kimbrel possesses the second-best K/9 rate (14.2) among all hurlers with at least 500 innings pitched in their career, and he still misses a bevy of bats. His 33.8 percent strikeout rate and 33.0% whiff rate each ranked in the 90th percentile or higher.
Conversely, Kimbrel’s walk rate was above 10 percent for the fifth time in the past six seasons, and opposing hitters tend to make loud contact against him when they can put the bat on the ball. Among the 314 pitchers who had at least 150 batted balls last season, Kimbrel’s 46.7 percent hard-hit rate was the 16th highest. His 10.5 percent barrel rate was well above the league average as well.
As he enters his 15th MLB season, Kimbrel has a 2.40 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP over 757 1/3 innings split between the Braves, Padres, Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers and Phillies. His postseason résumé isn’t quite as shiny thanks to his 4.50 ERA and 5.16 FIP, but he did win a World Series ring with Boston in 2018.