The Atlanta Braves and closer Craig Kimbrel have agreed to a four-year contract that will allow the two sides to avoid an arbitration this winter, the team announced. He will earn $42 million over that span.
The deal will take Kimbrel through the 2017 season and contains a club option for 2018. Kimbrel was eligible for arbitration the first time this year, meaning this deal will buy out all of his remaining arbitration years as well as at least one year of free agency. If his option is picked up, the total value of the contract could be brought up to $58 million.
Had this deal not been reached, there was a very stark possibility that the Braves would not be able to afford Kimbrel for much longer. Kimbrel had submitted for $9 million in his first year of arbitration while the team offered $6.55 million. Often, a player's free agent worth can be estimated via arbitration numbers. The first year is typically around 40 percent of a player's worth on the open market. The second year is 60 percent and the third year is 80 percent. Had Kimbrel won the case, he would get very expensive, very quickly.
While the Braves are not one of baseball's stingy teams, they also are not among the big spenders, either. Putting down big dollars on a closer -- even as good a closer as Kimbrel -- is a luxury they likely would not have been able to afford for much longer.
Still just 25 years old, Kimbrel has been utterly remarkable over his four-year career. His worst season came back in 2011 when he had a 2.10 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. He followed that up with a 1.01 ERA ERA in 2012. That same year, he had a ridiculous 0.65 WHIP and 8.3 K:BB ratio while striking out nearly two batters per inning. He was just as effective in 2013 with a 1.21 ERA en route to leading the league in saves for the third straight year.
Kimbrel says the Braves' recent extensions with first baseman Freddie Freeman and pitcher Julio Teheran convinced him Atlanta was dedicated to winning. Freeman received $135 million for eight years while Teheran will receive over $32 million the next six seasons. With the latest extension, the Braves have now avoided an arbitration hearing with all of their eligible players this offseason.