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Braves continue expensive offseason, sign Craig Kimbrel to four-year, $42 million extension

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(USA Today)

In three short seasons, Craig Kimbrel has already established himself as the most dominant closer in the game. On Sunday, the Braves rewarded Kimbrel for his early success by signing him to a historic four-year extension worth $42 million guaranteed.

That's a hefty chunk of change.

In finalizing the deal, the Braves have bought out Kimbrel's arbitration years and his first year of free agency. Yahoo's Jeff Passan and MLB.com's Mark Bowman report the deal will also include an option year with incentives that could raise the total value to $58 million.

Expensive indeed.

On Feb. 4, Atlanta locked up Freddie Freeman with an eight-year, $135 million extension. That's the largest contract in franchise history. That same day, Jason Heyward inked a two-year, $13 million deal. Julio Teheran's six-year, $32.4 million contract extension followed on Feb. 14. Now the Braves have locked up at least $42 million in their ace reliever.

That's always a little risky, but a key point for the Braves in all of these deals really is that they've created some cost certainly going forward, rather than having to worry about year-to-year arbitration battles and escalating salaries.

It also takes a load off Kimbrel's mind as it will give him security in a situation where he's comfortable.

"I'm very excited," Kimbrel said. "This is where I wanted to be. I'm glad we were able to come to terms and get this done.

"First of all, I want to thank God for giving me the ability that he has and blessing me to allow my family to be so close to me and be in the place where I've grown up always wanting to be. Now, I get to say I get to be here for four or five more years. If I didn't want to be here, this wouldn't be going on. I couldn't be any happier."

If there was one reliever that most would agree is worth the investment, Kimbrel is the guy. Over 231 career appearances, the 25-year-old flamethrower has posted a sparkling 1.39 ERA with an incredible 381 strikeouts in 227 1/3 innings. He's also led the NL in saves each of the past three seasons, including an MLB-best 50 last year in 54 opportunities.

At 25, he became the youngest pitcher to reach the 50 save plateau in a single season.

There's no doubt he's had a remarkable run so far. Now the Braves will hope it's only the beginning, with many more brilliant and overpowering days ahead.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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