We’re going to the top of the 9th, and the Atlanta Braves are up one. The lights go out, and flames slowly begin to engulf the video boards at Truist Park. “Welcome to the Jungle” begins to play around the ballpark, and No. 46 begins to jog out of the Atlanta bullpen……Could a certain reunion possibly be in the works?
The Atlanta Braves will undoubtedly make multiple moves over the next two to three weeks leading up to the 2021 MLB Trade Deadline to address the roster as a whole. However, there will certainly be special attention paid to the Braves bullpen, in particular, a unit that has struggled in the late innings so far this season.
Current closer Will Smith has struggled at times this year posting a 3-5 record with a 3.68 ERA with 18 saves so far this season, 12th most in baseball. With the only other arguable consistently reliable reliever being Luke Jackson up to this point, it’s clear that Atlanta must address the bullpen in the coming weeks.
Who will the Braves target for bullpen help, however? Well, one option is simple if you ask me, and will be widely accepted by the fanbase the moment that it happens.
Should the Atlanta Braves trade for Craig Kimbrel?
With recent reports that the Chicago Cubs (44-46, 8 GB in NL Central) may be selling at the deadline, the Braves should simply pick up the phone and bring back closer Craig Kimbrel.
Kimbrel, once considered undoubtedly the top closer in the game, began his career in Atlanta back in 2008 when the Braves selected the young right-hander in the third round of the 2008 MLB Draft. Debuting in 2010, it was clear from day one that the Braves had something special.
As mentioned previously, Kimbrel was no doubt the top closer in baseball during his time in Atlanta. From 2010-2015 alone, the hard-throwing right-hander posted a combined 1.43 ERA with 186 saves, while also winning numerous honors including 2011 NL Rookie of the Year, a four-time All-Star, and leading the NL in saves for four seasons.
Unfortunately, the All-Star closer was traded to the Padres back in 2015 as one of the first moves of the Braves’ rebuild. Kimbrel would spend less than a year in San Diego before he was traded to Boston where he remained until 2019, winning a World Series in the process.
Fast forward to 2019 where Kimbrel remained unsigned over 20-plus games into the MLB season. There were rumors of a reunion back then, but the Braves ended up signing starter Dallas Keuchel to a 1-yr deal, while Kimbrel was signed by the Cubs.
Kimbrel, however, struggled during the 2019 and 2020 seasons with Chicago, posting an ERA north of 5-plus in each. You could certainly make the argument that Kimbrel hasn’t been the same since leaving Atlanta, and if you looked at the numbers, you’d probably be right.
However, fast forward to this season where the 33-year old right-hander is having a phenomenal season with the Cubs posting a 0.57 ERA with 20 saves, good for fifth in baseball. The Braves badly need bullpen help, and the Cubs are apparently selling .. why not do it?
I could sit here and explain what Kimbrel would bring to Atlanta, but Braves fans already know what the veteran closer is capable of. Long story short, this would be a move widely approved by Braves’ fans, and would certainly be good news for a team and fanbase that desperately needs it.
While it would certainly take parting with at least one top prospect to make a deal like this happen, it is a move that makes sense to help solidify a Braves bullpen that badly needs help.
Still holding a team option for the 2022 season as well, this is a move that Atlanta could make looking toward the future.
However, he’s still owed around $7 million this year and his $16 million team option becomes guaranteed if he finishes 55 games this season. It’s still a very expensive contract for an aging reliever, so maybe the cost would be as high — or maybe the Braves swap an expensive, expiring contract in the deal to offset some of the money.
While it is still unknown if the Cubs will part ways with Kimbrel over the next couple of weeks, it is certainly a possibility. However, if there is one move in particular that the Atlanta Braves could make to provide an instant impact to an area of need where you know what you’ll get from day one, it’s bringing back Kimbrel.