A few weeks ago, Jim Bowden of The Athletic reported that free agent closer Craig Kimbrel was still seeking a deal in the six-year, $100+ million range. While Kimbrel hasn’t drawn widespread interest this offseason, perhaps due in part to his asking price, those terms don’t appear to have put off the Nationals. According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the club has maintained their interest in the closer and may yet prove willing to hand out the kind of long-term deal he’s after.
Last year, the 30-year-old right-hander saw his numbers start to regress from the career-high totals he set in 2017. That’s not to say he was awful: Despite some lingering control issues, he registered 42 saves with a 2.74 ERA, 4.5 BB/9, and 13.9 SO/9 through 62 1/3 innings and tacked on another six saves (albeit with a 5.91 ERA) in the postseason.
That kind of talent comes at a premium, especially for the Nationals. As Rosenthal points out, the club is positioned a mere $4.5 million below the $206 million luxury tax threshold and would be required to pay a significant penalty if they tack on the kind of deal Kimbrel is seeking. Given their luxury tax concerns and Kimbrel’s rejection of the Red Sox’ one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer last fall, the club is likely to forfeit their third and sixth-round draft picks should they reach an arrangement with the closer — not an unreasonable trade-off for the seven-time All-Star’s services.
As for the competition for Kimbrel, both the Phillies and Braves have been linked to the righty over the last week. Neither team appears inclined to make a long-term offer, though, which could give the Nationals the edge in negotiations as they approach Opening Day.