Before they signed Kenley Jansen, the Atlanta Braves and Chicago White Sox discussed a possible trade to bring Craig Kimbrel home.
Kenley Jansen took a long time to find a baseball home in 2022. He eventually settled on a one-year deal with the defending champion Atlanta Braves worth $16 million. It’s the exact same total former Braves closer Craig Kimbrel is set to make in 2022 as a member of the Chicago White Sox—or whatever team he ends up playing for.
Why the uncertainty about Kimbrel? Before Atlanta signed Jansen, they reportedly discussed a trade with the White Sox to bring Kimbrel home.
Kimbrel has been one of the league’s questionable trade pieces this offseason. A closer with no actual closer role on his current ball club, it would have been an interesting pivot for the Braves to make on their way toward trying to defend their championship.
The Braves made the right decision not trading for Craig Kimbrel
Because both are taking home the same exact salaries this season, there’s no discussion between the choices as far as money is concerned. An important question we can ask: who will be better?
Kimbrel has been pretty bad in recent seasons. Braves fans wouldn’t even recognize the 1.43 ERA pitcher he was during his five seasons in Atlanta. While not atrocious since the original trade that sent him to the San Diego Padres, his worst years have been the last three with one exception.
Prior to joining the White Sox last year, Kimbrel was actually turning things around with the Chicago Cubs. He had a 0.49 ERA in 36.2 innings of work. He regained the closer job and stomped all over anyone who may have doubted him. Changing sides of Chicago didn’t work out so well, however. With the White Sox, Kimbrel had a 5.09 ERA in 23 innings of work. He wasn’t their closer so perhaps he’s one of those guys who needs that role to be successful.
Jansen, meanwhile, is coming off of a career spent entirely with the Los Angeles Dodgers and another impressive year in 2021. He had a 2.22 ERA in 69 innings to go along with his 38 saves. His three prior seasons showed some signs of decline. However, the way he pitched in 2021 gave the Braves enough confidence that he was the right choice.
With any relievers, it’s a roll of the dice as to who will be better. Ultimately, the decision may have come down to how much easier it is to sign a free agent rather than make a trade. Jansen only costs money. Kimbrel would have cost at least a player.
The Braves haven’t been so sentimental this offseason. Blinking first and trading for Matt Olson rather than going the extra mile to sign Freddie Freeman displayed this. Kimbrel could always make his way back to Atlanta before he throws his final pitch. After all, both he and Jansen are free agents next winter. Maybe then the reunion can take place.