Tomase: There are better ways for Sox to spend than on Kimbrel originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Multiple images spring to mind at the mention of former Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel. There’s the violent recoil after he blows away an overmatched hitter. The weird falconer pose while taking signs. Maybe it’s simply the striking red beard.
What I see, however, makes me hope Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox turn their attention anywhere else this trade deadline.
It’s sweat. Buckets and rivers and wetlands and waterfalls, just gushing down Kimbrel’s arm in one of the biggest moments of his career.
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Kimbrel’s numbers during the 2018 postseason weren’t great, but they didn’t cost the Red Sox any games. Boston went 8-1 when he pitched, and Kimbrel recorded six saves.
Anyone who watched, however, remembers the tightrope that Kimbrel walked oh so unsteadily. He recorded saves in his first four appearances, but allowed runs in all of them.
The buyer beware moment came in the clinching Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the Yankees. Summoned on a humid New York night to protect a 4-1 lead, Kimbrel barely survived.
Two walks, a single, and a hit batter set the stage for slugging catcher Gary Sanchez, who barely missed a poorly located fastball, lofting it to the base of the left field fence for a sacrifice fly. Gleyber Torres then grounded weakly to third on a bang-bang play to end the series, and Kimbrel could exhale.
Making Sox fans sweat
Kimbrel’s postseason ERA with Red Sox (14 IP)
By that point, he was drenched. As he leaned in to take signs, sweat poured down his forearm. It was as if someone had turned on a faucet and then smashed the handle. The imagery perfectly accompanied the meltdown occurring on the field.
That the Red Sox went on to win a World Series and get Kimbrel a ring hardly changed the heart-attack nature of his appearances. One of the signature plays of that postseason — Andrew Benintendi’s diving catch to rob Alex Bregman in the pivotal Game 4 vs. Houston — came off of Kimbrel. His final appearance of those playoffs saw him allow a two-run homer to Kiké Hernández in the ninth inning of Game 4 vs. the Dodgers, turning an easy 9-4 win into a nail-biter.
So, I see little point in Bloom and the Red Sox extending themselves both financially (Kimbrel is making $16 million this year) and prospect-wise to acquire a closer who has wilted on the biggest stage. There are better ways to spend both resources in a deal with the Cubs — like, say, for former MVP Kris Bryant or slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Of course, if we’re being honest, Bloom is unlikely to extend himself for any rental, let alone one as unpredictable as Kimbrel.
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So spare me the talk of how he could make an effective Red Sox bullpen dominant. The numbers may say he’s striking out nearly half of the batters he has faced while posting a 0.57 ERA, but that’s after posting a 6.00 ERA over his first two disappointing seasons in Chicago. Once you know that version of Kimbrel is in there, it’s reasonable to fear that he’ll return when the Red Sox can least afford it.
Perhaps he’ll even be drenched in sweat. It wouldn’t be the first time.