MLB 2015: Making Sense Of Craig Kimbrel Trade

Craig Kimbrel, 26, leaves Atlanta as the Braves all-time leader in saves (186)
Craig Kimbrel, 26, leaves Atlanta as the Braves all-time leader in saves (186) (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

Before I even had the opportunity to hide an Easter egg the Braves pulled off a stunner of a trade. Craig Kimbrel, the undisputed best closer in Major League Baseball, is now a San Diego Padre.

I will not give you anymore chances to let that soak in.

Since the deal I’ve seen the range of emotions on social media and have tried to temper them all to help make sense of this deal for Atlanta. Honestly, though, if any deal needed to be done after the offseason the Braves just had it was this one. What Kimbrel allowed the Braves to do, essentially, was cash in on their best commodity by receiving the Padres #1 prospect and their 2015 41st pick in the draft. Most importantly it allowed them to get from under a contract many people around baseball thought couldn’t be gotten rid of:

The remaining $46+ million dollars still owed to Melvin Upton, Jr. now belongs to San Diego. All of it.

That is a huge deal. By shedding Upton’s salary (and the remaining $33+ million of Kimbrel’s) and only taking on $24 million from the Padres the Braves just netted $56 million in future contact flexibility as they march towards 2017 and SunTrust Park.

So what does that mean for the Braves? Again, lets recap:

  • $56 million more to spend going forward
  • They now have 4 of the first 54 picks this upcoming draft
  • No more BJ Upton Jr.
  • Reloaded Farm System

Does losing Kimbrel hurt? Of course! But the truth of the matter is he wasn’t saving many games in 2015 or 2016 so why hold onto him until 2017 when his value won’t be that high?

As for the Padres, this is the best young piece they picked up all offseason that they will have control of beyond 2015. They further mortgaged their future for immediate gain and did so without addressing their deficiencies on defense or infield offense. Per FanGraphs, this move only moved the Padres win projection by one (83 to 84) so the impact is minimal. My division predictions come out tomorrow and I still have the Padres behind the Dodgers and Giants in division.

So lets not get too ahead of ourselves in thinking the Braves aren’t a capable organization. Remember, they’ve had three losing seasons in the last 25 years; I think they know what they’re doing.

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