The Red Sox traded four prospects to the Padres for talented closer Craig Kimbrel. In this article we analyze if Boston surrendered too much and if having Kimbrel makes them a valuable MLB pick next season.
There's no question that Craig Kimbrel makes Boston a better team, but was this an efficient use of resources by them? Was it smart to trade top outfield prospect Manuel Margot, shortstop Javier Guerra, infielder Carlos Asuaje and left-hander Logan Allen for a closer, even if he is one of the best in the majors?
Craig Kimbrel has two guaranteed years and a reasonable 2018 option in his current contract. He was expensive in terms of the prospects it took to get him, but that can be seen as a negative aspect if we assume the best-case scenario futures for the four prospects and ignore that Kimbrel will help the Red Sox win now. Boston can now focus on improving their starting rotation by signing a free agent like Zack Greinke or David Price.
Kimbrel went 4-2 with 39 saves and a 2.58 ERA in 61 appearances (59 1/3 innings) for the Padres last season. He leads the league in saves (224), ranks second in ERA (1.70), strikeouts (523), strikeouts-per-nine innings (14.37), and save percentage (90.7) since the start of the 2011 season, his first full year in the majors.
He has converted 225 of 248 save opportunities, good for a 90.7 percent conversion rate (second all-time in MLB history among relievers with at least 200 save opportunities). On June 8th he recorded his 200th save in his 318th career game, becoming the fastest reliever in history to reach that mark.
What Boston Gave Up & How Kimbrel Could Help
All the stats above don't change the fact that the Red Sox gave up a whole lot of talent. Margot, Guerra, Asuaje and Allen could all be key pieces for the Padres in the future. These four players rated among the thirty best Boston Red Sox prospects on MLB.com's latest ranking, with Margot (No. 25) and Guerra (No. 76) also among the top 100 prospects league-wide.
Kimbrel will to be a major piece on a competitive Red Sox team right now, as the bullpen was a big part of what held them back in 2015. Boston's 4.24 bullpen ERA was the fifth-worst in the majors last season, and their .783 OPS against was last.
Their previous closer, 40-year-old Koji Uehara was effective, going 2-4 with 25 saves and a 2.23 ERA in 43 appearances (40 1/3 innings) but he ended the season injured with a broken hand. Uehara will go from being one of the better closers in the majors to one of the truly elite set-up men, giving the Red Sox one of the top closer/setup man combos in baseball, making them an intriguing MLB pick against most opponents, including the Yankees. Boston is now at +1200 MLB odds to win the 2016 World Series at Bovada.