Craig Kimbrel agrees to three-year contract with Cubs, optioned to Iowa

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Jayne Kamin Oncea - USA Today Sports
Jayne Kamin Oncea - USA Today Sports

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs and right-handed pitcher Craig Kimbrel have agreed to terms on a three-year contract. The deal, which covers the 2019-2021 seasons, also includes a vesting/club option for the 2022 campaign. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Kimbrel will be optioned to Triple-A Iowa.

Kimbrel, 31, has amassed 333 saves and seven All-Star nods during his nine-year career with the Atlanta Braves (2010-14), San Diego Padres (2015) and Boston Red Sox (2016-18), punctuated by a World Championship last season. Kimbrel led the National League in saves four years in a row from 2011-14, a run highlighted by his 2011 Rookie of the Year campaign, his career-high 50 saves in 2013 and four-straight N.L. All-Star seasons. He then made the A.L. All-Star team in each of his three years with the Red Sox.

Overall, Kimbrel has gone 31-19 with 333 saves, a 0.92 WHIP and a 1.91 ERA (113 ER/532.2 IP) in 542 relief appearances. He is the youngest pitcher to reach 300 career saves and the only pitcher in major league history with more saves (333) than hits allowed (285). Kimbrel’s 41.6 percent strikeout rate is the highest in major league history (minimum 2,000 batters faced). He has surpassed 40 saves in five of his last eight seasons and reached 30 saves in each of his last eight campaigns.

Kimbrel leads all active pitchers with 333 saves (14th-most in major league history), a 90.7 save percentage, a 1.91 ERA, .154 batting average against and .485 OPS against (minimum 500 innings). He has struck out 868 batters in 532.2 innings pitched, an average of 14.67 strikeouts per nine innings, second-highest among active pitchers.

The righthander earned unanimous N.L. Rookie of the Year honors in 2011 after going 4-3 with 46 saves and a 2.10 ERA with the Braves, a major league record for saves by a rookie. He then posted a 1.01 ERA in 2012 (fifth in Cy Young voting), a 1.21 ERA in 2013 (fourth in Cy Young voting) and a 1.61 ERA in 2014 (ninth in Cy Young voting), his final season in Atlanta. He totaled 186 saves in his four full campaigns with Atlanta from 2011-14, an average of 47 saves per season, before pitching for one year with San Diego in 2015, when he collected 39 saves.

Kimbrel joined the Red Sox in 2016 and helped the club to three-straight post-season appearances, averaging 36 saves a year. He finished sixth in A.L. Cy Young voting in 2017 (5-0, 35 saves, 1.43 ERA) and last year went 5-1 with 42 saves and a 2.74 ERA (19 ER/62.1 IP) in 63 relief outings, striking out 96 batters in 62.1 innings pitched, an average of 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings, to go along with a 0.99 WHIP.

A native of Huntsville, Ala., Kimbrel was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the third round of the 2008 Draft out of Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala.

To make room for Kimbrel on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Allen Webster was transferred to the 60-day injured list.

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