While the bullpen issues need to be addressed by the trade deadline, a recent rumor points to Craig Kimbrel landing in Houston.
As reported by Buster Olney of ESPN, Craig Kimbrel could be shopped due to the Chicago Cubs’ recent skid in the standings. While entering the season with a few players on expiring deals, they could be the most active sellers at the deadline.
While a return back to Boston seems “natural,” a high-ranking MLB executive tells Olney that the Houston Astros and Oakland A’s look to be the two teams pushing for the All-Star closer. This could help decide a close last two months in the AL West, if either team lands Kimbrel.
Kimbrel was selected to his eighth All-Star Game this past weekend, and while posting a 0.59 ERA this season, the right-hander still comes with a hefty contract. While being paid $16 million this season, the Astros would slightly fly over the luxury tax threshold, as the contract will be paid in relation to the amount of games left in the season. We can’t speculate the number now, but with the deadline nearing, the receiving team would be paying much less than $16 million for this season.
This would be more than a rental as well, since Kimbrel is under contract for 2022 unless he is bought out for an extra $16 million that comes with escalators. The Cubs’ 10 games after the break are against the St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks, so they have a chance to turn around their season and become buyers.
With the Astros already having an All-Star closer in Ryan Pressly, it is not bizarre to add another high-leverage arm. With a bullpen shuffling optionable pitchers, it makes sense to go all-in on someone that will help with a World Series push.
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Money is settled after the season, and with a trade, the Astros could free up space and deal with the other numbers this offseason. You don’t lose much other than a draft pick or a fine in correlation to the tax, but with first-round picks already out of the picture due to the sign stealing scandal, do the Astros care to lose more?
Everyone has their own opinion on the front office, but the Astros can win now with their talent and assets on the trade block. As Abraham Toro is starting to prove himself, I think he could easily fall in a trade by late July. This opens up a 40-man roster spot, as more high-end prospects will have to be thrown in the mix.
The farm system is already depleted in the eyes of large news organizations, but Korey Lee and Pedro Leon should be untouchable. Hunter Brown, Norel Gonzalez, and 40-man options like Tyler Ivey, Bryan Abreu or Peter Solomon could all be thrown in (just spit balling). It will take a haul if the Cubs are actually looking to blow their team up, but the Astros will have to do the same to their minor leagues in the process.