It’s a tricky question this off-season.
How much are Major League teams willing to pay for closers?
The Atlanta Braves have the best in all of baseball in Craig Kimbrel, but when the two sides filed arbitration figures Friday night, it showed a significant disconnect in terms of what they think he should be paid to be the best:
Per Mark Bowman of MLB.com:
The #Braves have offered Kimbrel $6.55M and he has requested $9M. Midpoint of $7.75M.
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) January 17, 2014
Earlier this off-season, some wondered if the Braves ought to explore trading Kimbrel for this very reason. I think most people figured that he would get expensive in arbitration, but $9 million is a ton to pay for a reliever, even if Kimbrel has been dynamite in his young career.
Kimbrel is still only 25 years old. He is coming off a season in which he saved a career-high 50 games with 13 K/9. He is under team control through 2016, but there figures to be more talk about his salary each season if the Braves stick with him.
Is it possible for Kimbrel to keep improving? Possibly, and even if he plateaus, a 50 save guy is rare. On the other hand, could the Braves get another team to give up value in a trade now and find a more cost-effective option for the 9th inning? To date the Braves have not explored trading Kimbrel (at least not publicly), and maybe they never will, but the figures exchanged tonight at least warrant asking the question.