After a turbulent year with the Dodgers that saw him lose his closing job, Craig Kimbrel is headed elsewhere for 2023. The veteran reliever has a new deal with the Phillies, per both Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic and Jeff Passan at ESPN.
The reported one-year, $10-million contract reunites Kimbrel with Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who traded for him in November 2015 while helming the Red Sox, for whom Kimbrel pitched for three seasons.
Kimbrel made $16 million in 2022 with the Dodgers.
Kimbrel was a late addition in spring training, traded from the White Sox across Camelback Ranch to the Dodgers for outfielder AJ Pollock just one week before opening day. Kimbrel gave the Dodgers a high-profile closer after franchise icon Kenley Jansen found a new deal with Atlanta after a dozen years in Atlanta.
On the surface, Kimbrel’s numbers look relatively productive, though unspectacular, with a 3.75 ERA, 3.23 FIP, and a 3.51 xERA in 63 innings. But the Dodgers had 16 other pitchers with a better ERA in relief than Kimbrel.
His command was terrible, and he didn’t miss enough bats. His 27.7-percent strikeout rate was above the league-wide rate, but was by far the worst such season of Kimbrel’s career. Kimbrel has a career 40-percent strikeout rate, and was in the 40s in each of the previous two seasons. 2022 was one of only two seasons that Kimbrel’s strikeout rate wasn’t at least 36 percent.
The active save leader, Kimbrel’s 394 career saves rank seventh on the all-time list. He added 22 saves to that total in 2022, but also blew five saves and lost two other games that were tied when he entered.
Kimbrel lost his closer role in late September, with the Dodgers instead relying on their bullpen depth to finish out games down the stretch. Seven different pitchers recorded a save for Los Angeles in September and October to close out the regular season.
That depth squeezed Kimbrel out come playoff time, as he was left off the Dodgers roster for the National League Division Series.
“This has been an up-and-down, inconsistent year as Craig has admitted and has never felt right,” manager Dave Roberts said on the eve of the NLDS.
Kimbrel in 13 major league seasons has a 2.31 ERA, 177 ERA+, 394 saves, and 1,098 strikeouts in 688 innings in 709 games pitched for the Braves, Padres, Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox, and Dodgers. He turns 35 in May.