CHICAGO – The Cubs’ rebound from a sluggish start to the top of the NL Central convinced President Theo Epstein to add reinforcements to a team with World Series aspirations.
Less than a week after signing Carlos Gonzalez to a minor league contract and receiving instant production from the three-time All-Star outfielder, the Cubs made a massive strike Wednesday night by agreeing to terms with seven-time All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.
The agreement will become official once Kimbrel, 31, passes a physical examination. Kimbrel’s agreement with the Cubs was first reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported the deal is worth $43 million and runs through 2021.
The addition of Kimbrel strengthens a bullpen already bolstered by the return of Pedro Strop, who said Tuesday he would gladly welcome a closer with the credentials of Kimbrel. The righthander has a lifetime 1.91 ERA with 333 saves and 14.7 strikeouts per nine innings over nine seasons with the Braves, Padres and Red Sox.
The deal would end a bizarre offseason for Kimbrel, the top reliever on the free-agent market who hadn’t signed since helping the Red Sox win the 2018 World Series.
By agreeing to terms with Kimbrel after Sunday night, the Cubs — or any team that signed him — would not lose a draft pick.
This marks the third time in four seasons Epstein and his staff acquired a closer, but this one did not cost them any prospects.
The Cubs acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees in exchange for four players, led by dazzling infielder Gleyber Torres, one week before the July 31 trade deadline in 2016.
Less than five months later — and one month after Chapman filed for free agency — the Cubs acquired Wade Davis from the Royals for enigmatic outfielder Jorge Soler at the winter meetings.
The acquisition of Kimbrel nearly two months before the trade deadline stressed the importance of beating the competition for the prime reliever in a shallow market.
Since Brandon Morrow suffered an elbow injury midway through last season, the Cubs have piecemealed the back end of their bullpen.