There are no statistics needed to prove Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in baseball. I don’t need a paragraph or two with strikeout numbers or ratios or anything else to make the point.
All you’ve ever needed to do is watch the young man pitch to know it’s true. The eye test is all that is required.
He’s Rich Gossage, Rob Dibble and Mariano Rivera all wrapped in one. He is as dominant as Gossage was, throws as hard as Dibble did and with Rivera retired can now assume the spot at the top of the mountain as the best closer in the game.
And now, Kimbrel is going to be in Atlanta for at least the next five years.
It was fun to think of what Kimbrel could have fetched in a trade, and certainly, if the Braves had not been able to lock him up in a long-term deal a trade would have been very probable. But you cannot allow a player who is the best at his position to go away. Those are the players you have to keep no matter what.
This is a player that if he stays healthy could be on a Hall of Fame track. Again, I’m not supplying stats. You know what he’s done. You know how young he is. And players that have done that well at a young age with plenty of baseball left have tremendous potential to do great things for a long time.
Might Kimbrel get hurt at some point? Sure, it could happen. He throws hard. Pitchers who throw hard usually get hurt during their career. But Kimbrel is not Mark Wohlers. He’s not John Rocker. He’s not going to be another Atlanta reliever that never realized his full potential.
Wohlers and Rocker both threw hard, like Kimbrel, but the current Braves closer is just better. There was a thought that at any time either Wohlers or Rocker could lose it, and they eventually both did. But if you’ve seen Kimbrel pitch, does that thought even enter your mind?
When Kimbrel bounces out of the bullpen, the game is over. Period. The opponent is done. They have no shot.
It’s the feeling the Braves thought they’d have with Bruce Sutter when they signed him to a megadeal back in 1985. Sutter got hurt and was pretty much done, but he had that mystique about him. It was just over before he got to Atlanta.
It’s the thought they had when John Smoltz moved to the pen for a few years. You knew Smoltz was not going to allow the opponent to score. He had that intangible that makes special closers special.
Billy Wagner had it. What a shame he was only in Atlanta for one season, but even at the end of his career Wagner had that ‘it’ factor that made him one of the best in the game.
Kimbrel has all of that. He’s got a swagger, a confidence, that you want closers to have. He comes out of the pen with the attitude that ‘these people in this other uniform are not going to score on me.’
And they usually don’t.
So the Braves have now given a ton of money (around $225 million) in contract extensions for Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran and Kimbrel. That’s their best hitter, their potential best starter and the best closer in the game.
They need to lock up Mike Minor next. The left-handed starter is under control for four more seasons. He’ll have three more arbitration years left after this season, so wouldn’t it be great for the Braves to sign him to a five or six-year contract?
That would give the Braves a great one-two punch in the rotation for the next half-decade. Alex Wood is another solid lefty to be in the rotation, and the Braves hope young righty Lucas Sims can perhaps join the rotation in two years or so. But locking up Minor to compliment Teheran would give Atlanta a solid top of the rotation.
Sure, the new stadium makes these new contracts possible. But do not forget about the additional national television revenue each team is receiving starting this season. It’s around $25 million per year for each team, and for some reason not many reporters are talking about it.
We’ve been wondering for some time how the Braves were going to spend the extra money. And there’s no doubt, a chunk of it is going to help for the new stadium. If that wasn’t the case, the Braves would have raised payroll for this season, and they haven’t. But the TV money is giving the team flexibility moving forward to allow the additional stadium revenues to be used on player salaries.
It seems simple – allow the extra TV money you get now to go to the stadium, so that when the stadium opens in 2017 that additional revenue can then be transitioned into the inevitable increasing salaries.
The Braves haven’t made many offseason moves to improve the roster, but these extensions will suffice. We now know the team is locking up its core for the future, and that alone will make the fan base even more ready for the upcoming season.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.