Craig Kimbrel

Red Sox acquire Padres closer Craig Kimbrel for four prospects, including Manuel Margot

John Tomase
November 13, 2015 - 2:46 pm

Well that didn't take long. The Red Sox wasted no time striking to open the offseason, acquiring All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel from the Padres on Friday for four minor-leaguers, including three of their top 12 prospects, according to Baseball America. Heading to San Diego for the four-time All-Star are outfielder Manuel Margot, left-handed pitcher Logan Allen, shortstop Javier Guerra, and infielder Carlos Asuaje. That's a steep price to pay, but Kimbrel isn't just any reliever. The 27-year-old is a former Rookie of the Year who has finished in the top 10 of the Cy Young voting four times. He was drafted in 2008 by the Braves, whose GM at the time, Frank Wren, now works as a Red Sox assistant. "The history, the fans in Boston, the atmosphere is always awesome every time I've been there," Kimbrel said on a conference call Friday night. "You can tell the history and everything behind it there, so to be able to put the uniform on, to be able to play in front of those fans, it's going to be a lot of fun." Despite standing only 5-11, Kimbrel has posted some eye-popping numbers, with 225 career saves and an otherworldly 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings. He also owns a lifetime ERA of 1.63. "Being moved to the American league, I'm excited," Kimbrel said. "It's a league of big bats and as a pitcher you want to have the opportunity to face those big  bats. It's a challenge in itself and I'm looking forward to." President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said that Kimbrel will close, with Koji Uehara moving to the eighth inning and Junichi Tazawa to the seventh. Dombrowski said manager John Farrell spoke to Uehara on Friday and the former closer endorsed the move. "John made sure to reach out to Koji and spoke to him tonight already and said he was really good with the change of the role and that all he wants to do is pitch in the World Series again," Dombrowski said. "He basically said, 'You don't have to worry about me, I'll pitch whenever you're asked to,' and he acknowledged Kimbrel and understands the shift to the eighth inning, so I think that whole combination for us is really what made it work." Kimbrel took a small step back last year in San Diego after being acquired in April for Cameron Maybin and Matt Wisler, among others. Kimbrel went 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA and 39 saves. The ERA was a career-high and the saves a career-low. He admits being thrown for a loop by the timing of the trade that sent him to San Diego. "It definitely opened up my eyes, it definitely made you grow quite a bit," he said. "Especially with the trade being so last-minute, the night before Opening Day. Things went kind of fast. I could barely know my teammates. I'm looking forward to having spring training to learn the team I'm going to be on this year." Kimbrel dominates with a fastball that averaged almost 98 mph last year. He gets as many swings and misses as any pitcher in the game, and in 2012 he became the first pitcher in history to strike out more than half the batters he faced (116 of 231). During spring training, Red Sox reliever Anthony Varvaro discussed his relationship with Kimbrel following their years together in Atlanta. "Craig and I talked (last) offseason after I got traded," Varvaro said in March. "I just him that I appreciated him letting me be in the bullpen with him. Obviously he has no say in it, but I told him I learned a lot just watching him, and I felt that he made me a better pitcher just watching him lead by example and he was like, 'Hey, listen. You made yourself a better pitcher.' That's just how he is. Very humble." As for the prospects the Red Sox surrendered, the 21-year-old Margot is probably the most exciting. He hit .276 with six homers last year, finishing the season at Double-A. Guerra, 20, was part of a powerhouse Greenville roster at Single-A, while Allen, 18, posted a 1.11 ERA in 11 starts during his pro debut after being drafted in the eighth round last June. This is not the first time the Red Sox have expressed interest in Kimbrel. They spoke to the Padres at the trade deadline in July, according to a major-league source, and the Padres asked for Margot then, too. Kimbrel has two years and $24 million remaining on his contract, with a $13 million option for 2018.