Relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel has found a new team. He and the Baltimore Orioles agreed Wednesday on a one-year, $13 million contract that includes a club option for 2025.
We have agreed to terms with RHP Craig Kimbrel on a one-year contract for the 2024 season with a club option for 2025.
Welcome to Birdland, Craig! pic.twitter.com/9BXpqCyTT2
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) December 6, 2023
Kimbrel has spent the vast majority of his career as a closer and is expected to continue to fill that role in Baltimore. The Orioles needed someone to replace Felix Bautista at the end of games, as he is expected to miss all of next season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
The 2024 season will be Kimbrel's 15th in the majors, and the Orioles will be his eighth team. He came up with the Atlanta Braves in 2010, winning National League Rookie of the Year in 2011 and serving as the team's lights-out closer for five seasons.
Over his career, Kimbrel has a 2.40 ERA with 417 career saves. He has had his share of ups and downs, particularly when he was pitching for the Chicago Cubs. In 2019 and 2020, he had a combined 6.00 ERA, but he bounced back with a 0.49 ERA in 2021 before he was traded to the Chicago White Sox.
Kimbrel has been an All-Star nine times in his career, most recently with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2023. He performed well in Philly throughout the season, serving as the team's closer when hard-throwing reliever Jose Alvarado was on the injured list. Kimbrel ended the regular season with a 3.26 ERA, 23 saves and five blown saves, which doesn't include the blown save in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, a win the Phillies seemed to have in the bag until Kimbrel came in and allowed two runs at the worst possible time.
Kimbrel isn't the shut-'em-down closer he once was, but even with a few baserunners, he can still get the job done more often than not. As long as the Orioles don't mind a few blown saves and a handful of nail-biting finishes, he'll be just what they need until Bautista is back and ready to go in 2025.