The Orioles are “seriously engaged” on free agent reliever Craig Kimbrel, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (X link). Baltimore has been involved on a number of late-game bullpen arms as they look to compensate for the loss of Félix Bautista to Tommy John surgery.
Kimbrel wouldn’t be as notable a pickup as Josh Hader or Jordan Hicks, in whom Baltimore reportedly also expressed interest. Kimbrel would be a far more affordable acquisition, though. That’s more a reflection of his age (36 in May) than performance, as the nine-time All-Star turned in a generally solid showing for the Phillies.
After inking a $10MM free agent contract with Philadelphia last winter, Kimbrel operated in his customary closing role. He picked up 23 saves with seven more holds while blowing only five leads in the regular season. The right-hander worked to a 3.26 ERA through 69 innings, striking out a little over a third of opponents in the process. Kimbrel’s fastball sat in the customary 96 MPH range, while he picked up a whiff on nearly 14% of his offerings.
It was a good season overall, even if it ended on a less resounding note. Kimbrel allowed four runs with five strikeouts and walks apiece over six innings in the postseason. It was the second consecutive season that didn’t end as he’d hoped; Kimbrel had been left off the Dodgers’ playoff roster in 2022. Yet his overall body of work over the past three years — a 3.10 ERA with a 34.4% strikeout percentage across 188 2/3 innings — is quite strong.
With the possible exception of Hader, no pitcher could reasonably be expected to rival what the O’s would’ve anticipated from a healthy Bautista. Kimbrel remains an above-average reliever, though, one who clearly has no qualms handling the ninth inning. If the O’s plugged him in as closer for a season, they’d be able to keep Yennier Cano and Danny Coulombe in a setup capacity.