USA Today Sports

Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes in mix to potentially replace Craig Kimbrel

Rob Bradford
November 01, 2018 - 4:06 pm

The Craig Kimbrel question isn't coming out of the blue.

Kimbrel has always figured to be one of the tougher decisions when he hits the free agent market, which will be in the coming weeks. He's a closer who is likely in line to set a record for largest contract given to a player at his position, most likely surpassing Aroldis Chapman's five-year, $86 million deal.

The Red Sox will likely extend a qualifying offer to Kimbrel, which would pay the pitcher $17.9 million if he accepted the one-year deal and give the Sox a draft pick if he doesn't. But the more plausible scenario is the 30-year-old getting his dream deal.

"Look at this team. It’s kind of hard to say no to that," said Kimbrel when asked if he wanted to return to the Red Sox. "If we can work something out I would be more than pleased to stay here for a few more years."

It's a topic that was broached by Dave Dombrowski Thursday morning, as well.

"We do think that we do have a situation where internally we have a couple candidates to do that. (Matt) Barnes and (Ryan) Brasier are the top candidates," said the Red Sox president of baseball operations. "They’re not Craig Kimbrel at this point in their careers. But I don’t think we go into the closer by committee approach. So if it wasn’t Craig it’d be either them or we’d have to see what other alternatives existed outside the organization."

While Barnes' stuff and production are intriguing, in terms of experience in the role Brasier would seem to have the upper-hand.

It might be hard to envision a guy who was playing in the minor leagues in Japan a season ago becoming the replacement for Kimbrel but Brasier's history and 2018 production suggests this might be a very real alternative. It's a scenario he admitted to at least contemplating.

"It is what it is. I’m sure they will go get somebody if we don’t sign him back. But that would be cool," Brasier told Thursday afternoon regarding potentially getting the opportunity to close. "It definitely has crossed my mind about him not coming back. But at the same time, I’m just trying to make it out of spring training."

Brasier has 78 career minor-league saves to his credit, not having got an opportunity yet to close out a big league game. In 8 2/3 postseason innings, the righty allowed just one run while holding opponents to a .219 batting average.

Some of the free agent closer who will be available this offseason include Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, David Robertson, Sergio Romo, Cody Allen and Jeurys Familia.

Related: Alex Cora explains stance on White House visit