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Leandre: Red Sox Need to Re-Evaluate Closer Situation

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Boston Red Sox have endured a magical start to their 2018 campaign. However, even with all of the success, there still remains some issues that Boston will need to look into fixing in the future.

While August isn’t really the best time to take a long, hard look at a position of need and completely restore order to it, it’s definitely worth making note of so that changes can be made in the offseason. That being said, the closer position needs to be re-evaluated this offseason.

Craig Kimbrel has been well worth the cost to acquire him ever since Dave Dombrowski made the move for him back on Nov. 13, 2015. In almost three full seasons with the club, Kimbrel has notched 99 saves and posted and a 2.34 ERA, as well as being on the American League All-Star team in each of his three seasons.

However, there’s something different about Kimbrel in 2018 that wasn’t very noticeable in years past. Yes, he’s always been able to rely on high velocity to make up for his sometimes lack of command, but in 2018, the velocity just hasn’t been there like it used to be. Even with the 33 saves and a 2.49 ERA, in his last nine outings, Kimbrel’s ERA is over four and opponents are posting an .807 OPS against him.

Back to his velocity being down, this year he’s been sitting more around 96-97 MPH, whereas last year he was consistently hitting 98-99, sometimes 100 MPH. Yes, 96-97 MPH is still an above-average fastball, but Kimbrel hasn’t been as successful in terms of missing bats in 2018. He is posting a career-worst FIP of 3.28, to go along with a Red Sox career-worst H/9 of 5.2, HR/9 of 1.1, and K/9 of 13.2.

Kimbrel is a free agent at the end of the season and is due for a pretty big pay-day. Coming off of a contract where his average annual value rests at just $10.8 million, and with him being 30 years old, he’s due for the likely only big contract of his whole career— leaving the Red Sox in a sort of limbo as they have to balance the money going to a guy like Mookie Betts in a couple of seasons.

Considering how Kimbrel has looked of late and the fact his velocity is down, it might be in the best interest of the organization to move on from him.

With the way the game has adapted, more and more guys are going multiple innings every season. Kimbrel’s numbers in the eighth inning are abysmal with a 7.71 ERA in six outings, with an opponent’s OPS of 1.362. This is definitely not encouraging moving forward and with a guy like Durbin Feltman—the Texas Christian University product the Red Sox drafted in the third round—waiting in the wings, having a guy like Kimbrel could block a guy who could really be helping the big league club.

Maybe Kimbrel rights the ship and begins bringing his upper-90s fastball back, and in three weeks this idea is completely put to bed as another hot-take. As of right now though, it is definitely worth bringing to the surface.

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