Craig Kimbrel
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Report: Nationals interested in Craig Kimbrel

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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.

Grudge continues to fester between Braves, Marlins

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The Braves and Marlins have some bad blood, especially concerning Ronald Acuña Jr. Around this time last year, José Ureña intentionally threw at Acuña in the first at-bat of a game, leading to a benches-clearing incident. Acuña was hit on the elbow and exited the game but was ultimately fine. Acuña’s crime? Just being good at baseball. At the time, he had homered in five consecutive games, including three games against the Marlins.

In 2019, the first-place Braves and last-place Marlins have mostly minded their own business. The Marlins, however, can certainly keep a grudge it appears. With his first pitch in the bottom of the first inning Tuesday night in Atlanta, Marlins starter Elieser Hernández hit Acuña in the hip.

Home plate umpire Alan Porter issued warnings to both dugouts. Braves manager Brian Snitker wasn’t happy about his side having received a warning for no reason, and was ejected by first base umpire Mark Wegner. Hernández would hit Adeiny Hechavarría with a pitch in the fourth inning — seemingly unintentionally — and was not ejected. Other than that, there were no more incidents and cooler heads prevailed.

Acuña finished 1-for-4 in the Braves’ 5-1 win. Freddie Freeman hit two home runs and knocked in four runs.