Not too long ago, Craig Kimbrel made three straight All-Star Games with the Red Sox, racking up 108 saves for Boston.
Flash back to the present day and Kimbrel is having a resurgence with the Cubs in 2021, making him one of the hottest assets on the market as we draw closer to the Trade Deadline.
Could the ex-Red Sox reliever fit in with the Yankees, toeing the rubber in pinstripes and helping New York try to catch Boston in the division?
With the Cubs reeling and the Yankees in need of reinforcements across their pitching staff, Chicago's closer may very well fit in for New York, if the price is right.
Matt Martell of Sports Illustrated suggested that general manager Brian Cashman pick up the phone and calls the Cubs, finding a way to pry Kimbrel away before the Deadline. Factor in Aroldis Chapman's struggles in high-leverage spots—along with injuries to a few seasoned vets—and adding another experienced arm makes a whole lot of sense.
Here's more from Martell on why Kimbrel should be on New York's radar:
Kimbrel might also be an appealing option for the Yankees, especially in light of Aroldis Chapman's recent implosions in save situations and the injury woes of both Zack Britton and Darren O'Day. They'd have to take on Kimbrel's salary and probably have to trade a high-end prospect to get him. But, if the starting pitching market doesn't have what they're looking for, they could take some of the pressure off their rotation by adding to their bullpen.
Britton is working his way back from his latest stint on the injured list, but with no spring training to build up after elbow surgery in March, who knows how many innings he can provide down the stretch. Meanwhile, O'Day appears to be destined for a lengthy stay on the IL after a "significant" hamstring strain.
It's also worth noting that following a shortened campaign last year, teams will need to be extra smart with their pitchers as the second half of the regular season begins. Considering New York's most reliable (and dominant) relievers—Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga—have been used often this year, adding another formidable option would help make sure that dynamic duo doesn't get overworked and burn out over the next few months.
Chicago is sitting 9.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers as of Thursday night in the National League Central, losers of nine of their last 10. Kimbrel's quality campaign presents the organization with a chance to recoup some talent in return.
The right-hander has posted a 0.57 ERA over 31.2 innings this season, saving 20 games while striking out 54 batters thus far. Those numbers were good enough for the right-hander to secure his eighth trip to the All-Star Game.
That's quite the reversal for an aging reliever that had a 6.00 ERA over 41 appearances during his first two years in Chicago (from 2019 through 2020).
New York sent closer Aroldis Chapman to the North Side in 2016 as the Yankees conceded their fate of eventually missing the playoffs. The Cubs went on to win a championship that year, ending a 108-year drought.
Perhaps the addition of a top reliever would help tip the scales and point the Yankees toward a similar path in the playoffs. After all, it's been a dozen years since a World Series was last won in the Bronx, a drought that's beginning to feel like a century for diehard Yankees fans.
Regardless of the history between those two clubs, it sounds like it'll take a haul to get Kimbrel this month. ESPN's Buster Olney reported this week that Kimbrel is expected to be the "most coveted player in the trade market." Several insiders added on Friday morning that the Cubs have indeed shifted into sell mode, meaning Kimbrel appears to be a likely trade candidate.
That's before diving into the financial implications of this type of trade for the Yankees and whether or not New York would be willing to exceed the luxury tax threshold.
How much talent would the Yankees be willing to part ways with in order to shore up the back end of the 'pen? There are certainly other holes that need to be filled on New York's roster as well—namely center field—that should be prioritized ahead of a veteran reliever.
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