TRADE: The Dodgers are acquiring Craig Kimbrel from White Sox in exchange for A.J. Pollock, per multiple reports. pic.twitter.com/6lYeCDgzHc
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 1, 2022
It’s a massive addition for a squad that was already in position to compete for another World Series title before the deal went down.
With Kimbrel now wearing Dodger Blue, the team can say that it boasts one of the best MLB rosters in recent memory.
But should fans worry about the possibility of a letdown season from the veteran relief pitcher?
It’s certainly worth considering.
1 Reason Dodgers Fans Should Be Concerned About Kimbrel
It’s no secret that Kimbrel’s 2021 season was a tale of two halves.
Prior to the 2021 trade deadline, the righty posted some absurd numbers over 39 appearances with the Chicago Cubs, including a 0.49 ERA and 1.10 FIP.
However, on deadline day, Kimbrel was dealt to the Chicago White Sox, which marked the beginning of a very poor stretch for him.
He appeared in 24 games for the White Sox and got shelled to the tune of a 5.09 ERA and 4.56 FIP.
That’s obviously somewhat concerning.
After Kimbrel was traded to Los Angeles just days ago, it marked a chance for him to start fresh, but he didn’t leave a great impression in his first spring training appearance for the Dodgers.
Interesting ST debut for Craig Kimbrel with the Dodgers:
2B, HR, HR, 1B, K (pulled)
— Boston Strong (@BostonStrong_34) April 2, 2022
Clearly, the 33-year-old is going to have to prove to Dodgers fans that he’s still capable of pitching like an elite reliever.
It’s now been more than seven months since the last time he looked like his best self on the mound.
1 Reason Dodgers Fans Shouldn’t Be Concerned About Kimbrel
When evaluating Kimbrel’s struggles with the White Sox in 2021, there’s one key thing to keep in mind: He wasn’t working as a closer.
Most of his work with the White Sox came as a setup man, which isn’t the role he’s used to.
Throughout virtually his entire career, Kimbrel has displayed an odd quirk in which he’s significantly better in save situations than he is in non-save situations.
- Kimbrel’s career stats in save situations: 1.94 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, .467 opponent OPS
- In non-save situations: 2.67 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, .602 opponent OPS
Kimbrel isn’t the only pitcher like this — there are other closers who struggle in non-save situations as well.
Fortunately for Kimbrel, he won’t have to worry about pitching in many non-save situations in 2022.
Dave Roberts recently made it clear that the former third-round pick will be the Dodgers’ closer this season.
Dave Roberts confirms the obvious: Craig Kimbrel will be the Dodgers’ closer.
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) April 2, 2022
That’s great news for all involved parties, as it’ll give Kimbrel a chance to flourish in his traditional role, which is exactly what Los Angeles needs from him.
The Verdict: No Need To Worry Just Yet
Kimbrel certainly has something to prove going into the 2022 regular season, but with the superstar going back into his traditional closing role, Dodgers fans should be optimistic about him.
It’s probably unrealistic to expect Kimbrel to post the sort of numbers he did in the first half of the 2021 season (like a 0.49 ERA), but if things go well, he could perform at an All-Star level again.
Time will tell if that is indeed in the cards.