Wait ... Craig Kimbrel's still a Brave?
Over the weekend, Joe Sheehan started pumping out a flood of newsletters, one for each team. I wish I’d thought of it. Anyway, I’m not going to completely cannibalize Joe’s work, but I have been taking notes and will be addressing a few highlights this week. First, from his take on the Braves:
For the third straight offseason, I'll say that the Braves should trade Craig Kimbrel, who peaked in 2012, whose walk rate keeps rising and who was saved last year by a 4.9% HR/FB. It's not that he isn't good; it's that his perceived value is so much higher than his actual value that he's the perfect trade chip. Kimbrel is signed to a team-friendly deal through 2017, and his surface stats remain amazing. Trading Kimbrel for offense would be the one thing John Hart could do to make the Braves a challenger to the Nationals.
I’ll quibble here for a moment ... I don’t believe that Kimbrel’s actual skills have changed a whit in the last few years. Yes, his walk rate has increased in each of the last two seasons, but the only real outlier is 2012, when he walked only 14 in 63 innings. Kimbrel’s walk rates in his other three full seasons are perfectly in line with each other, especially when you consider the small samples involved.
And sure, his home-run rate was abnormally low last season. All that means is that we’ll expect him to give up four home runs next year rather than two – he’s never given up more than four homers in a season! – and of course one of those “extra” homers probably wouldn’t even blow a save.
All of which is to say that Kimbrel’s more than good; he projects as one of the game’s four or five best relief pitchers in 2015.
I do agree that the Braves should trade him, since they’re apparently not all that interested in competing for a playoff spot in the next year or two. Or maybe they are? Trading Jason Heyward and trying to trade Justin Upton suggests one thing, signing Nick Markakis another. But it sure seems like they’re targeting 2017, when they move into their new mallpark, as the year to compete again.
Maybe it doesn’t matter. The Braves need another big hitter now, and they’ll probably need another big hitter in 2017. And if Kimbrel, a great young relief pitcher who probably has the typical shelf life of great young relief pitchers, can bring back a big hitter in a trade, then why not?