Bryce Harper, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, starting pitching, and repeat.
It has been a narrow focus for Phillies fans in the early days of the offseason as the hot stove slowly begins to heat, but there’s a new big-name free agent now linked to the team:
Source: #Phillies interested in Craig Kimbrel, in addition to their well-documented desire to add a superstar position player. #Braves and #STLCards are among the other possible suitors for Kimbrel. @MLBNetwork @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 7, 2018
How strong is that interest? We’ll see. The Phillies have money to spend and multiple spots to upgrade, so it’s really no surprise they are connected to Kimbrel, or any other free agent, for that matter.
Kimbrel converted 42 of 47 save opportunities this past season with the World Champion Red Sox. In 63 appearances, the 7x all-star posted a 2.74 ERA, 13.9 K/9, and .995 WHIP.
Despite those solid regular season numbers, the 30-year-old struggled in his nine postseason appearances, allowing seven earned runs in 10.2 innings of work.
I’m a bit conflicted over this news. On the positive side, I could watch Phillies fans do this 45 times a year:
Seeing Kimbrel reminded me of when Phillies fans were imitating Craig Kimbrel. pic.twitter.com/5ogWNoKvDn
— CoronaLime 🐦⚾️🧢 (@_CoronaLime_) October 10, 2018
While that would be fun, going all-in on what is expected to be one of the market’s costliest relievers is a questionable move. I think we all remember what happened the last time the Phillies signed a high-profile reliever from the Red Sox:
Something tells me Phillies fans won't miss Jonathan Papelbon. pic.twitter.com/O90LV8ueUy
— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) July 28, 2015
But the way the game’s decision-makers have prioritized pitching has changed in recent seasons. The importance of inning-eating starting pitchers has diminished, while there’s been an increased significance placed on premium relievers. That became evident to anybody who watched the postseason unfold last month.
Adding a player with Kimbrel’s postseason experience and pedigree would be an obvious upgrade to the Phillies’ bullpen, but his addition wouldn’t come without some concern. His rocky postseason aside, Kimbrel’s fastball velo dipped from 98.7 mph to 97.5 mph this past season, while his BB% more than doubled and his 3.13 FIP was a career-worst.
There’s absolutely zero doubt it’s time for the Phillies to bust out the wallets and flex some big market muscle, but they would be wise to exercise some caution in this particular instance.