By Sam Bush
ESPN’sBuster Olney is reporting that he Baltimore Orioles are thisclose to signing veteran closer Craig Kimbrel.
Baltimore has a need since its All-Star closer Felix Bautista is likely out for the 2024 season after Tommy John surgery. He went on the injured list in August.
Kimbrel was one of the pre-eminent closers of the 2010s, making six All-Star appearances and accumulating a whopping 332 saves — at least 68 more than anybody else — while pitching for the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox from 2011 to 2018.
The 35-year-old right-hander navigated that eight-year stretch with a 1.97 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP and a rate of 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings with a devastating fastball-curveball combo. He has since posted a 3.57 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP and a 13.0 strikeout rate with the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Phillies.
Kimbrel made two more All-Star teams from 2019 to 2023, including this past season with the Phillies, when he posted a 3.26 ERA, saved 23 games and struck out 94 batters in 69 regular-season innings.
His lasting image in Philadelphia was blowing a two-run lead in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, paving the way for the Phillies’ shocking elimination against the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Orioles were a major surprise last season, winning an American League-best 101 games. They won the AL East before being swept by the Rangers in the division series. Many preseason projections had them finishing in the basement of the division.