Why the St. Louis Cardinals shouldn’t trade for Craig Kimbrel despite him being available.
Entering the offseason, the St. Louis Cardinals have a number of needs. Shortstop. Starting pitcher. A fourth outfielder. But could they look to upgrade in the ninth inning over Alex Reyes and Giovanny Gallegos?
If they choose to do so, one option could be Chicago White Sox reliever Craig Kimbrel. They plan to pick up his $16 million club option for 2022 and then are expected to trade him, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
The Cardinals know just how good Kimbrel is, having seen him up close for years when the right-hander was with the Chicago Cubs. In 36.2 innings, he had a 0.49 ERA and 64/13 strikeout-to-walk ratio, further establishing his Hall of Fame candidacy. But when he was traded to the White Sox, his ERA ballooned to 5.09 while allowing 31 baserunners in 23 innings.
The struggles are in large part because he was a setup man, rather than a closer. But while any team who acquires Kimbrel should expect a version closer to the pitcher he was with the Cubs, the Cardinals should stick with their internal options — at least in this case.
Sure, Kimbrel would solidify the ninth inning. But using that $16 million elsewhere (perhaps on Trevor Story?) when you have Gallegos in the ninth inning would be a bad use of resources. In 73 appearances this season, including 14 saves, he posted a 3.02 ERA and looked the part of a very good closer, stepping up when Reyes flailed in the ninth inning after dominating in the first half of the regular season.
Besides, acquiring Kimbrel would require the Cardinals to part with a premium haul of prospects — the White Sox gave up Nick Madrigal and others for Kimbrel at the deadline — and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak has shown no willingness to do such deals in the past.
Kimbrel to St. Louis would be nice. Just don’t get your hopes up. It’s a longshot — and not going to happen.