Rays News

Dollars and Sense: Why the Tampa Bay Rays should sign Kimbrel

By Austin Reimann
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 27: Closing pitcher Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Boston Red Sox pumps his fist after the last out of the ninth inning to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-6 in Game Four of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 27: Closing pitcher Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Boston Red Sox pumps his fist after the last out of the ninth inning to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-6 in Game Four of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

There has been one question floating around in my head the entire offseason… Why haven’t the Tampa Bay Rays spent more money? Blake Snell seems to be thinking the same thing and I can’t blame him.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported yesterday that the Tampa Bay Rays ace would like the front office to make a run at the best closer in the game, Craig Kimbrel. It may seem ridiculous to some, especially when it is known that Kimbrel is in search of a contract north of 90M over 6 years. While it may seem ridiculous, it shouldn’t, Blake is right about the need to act now and lock up the best closer on the market and here is why:

The Rays have money to spend, whether Stu says so or not:

I wasn’t heart broken when the Rays didn’t sign Nelson Cruz, David Robertson, or Andrew McCutchen.  No one expected them to sign Machado or Harper. Heck, nobody expects them to sign Kimbrel either, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.

I’m not an accountant nor a financial wizard but I can tell you this, the Rays can afford to spend more than 56M on their payroll this season. Last year, the Rays brought in more revenue than ever before and this year are spending the least amount of money since 2011. According to Forbes, the Rays generated 219M in revenue in 2018. That is a 14M increase from 2017 and a 28M increase from 2016. Yet, the Rays are slotted to spend roughly 20M less this season compared to last.

Since 2010, the Rays have spent, on average, 37.9% of the previous year’s revenue on the opening day payroll the following year. The lone exception was when they opened 2011 with a payroll of roughly 42M which represented only 27.1% of 2010’s 156M in revenue.

As we rapidly approach Opening Day, it is rather clear that the Rays payroll come March 28th is going to sit around 56M. That would represent the lowest opening day payroll since 2011 and the lowest percentage of the previous season’s revenue, 25.7%, since the Rays have been competitive.

If the Rays had spent the average 37.9% of last year’s revenue this offseason, they would have been able to spend an additional 26.5M on free agent upgrades such as Kimbrel, Robertson, Donaldson, or even Cruz. Instead, they have opted to spend up to 13% less than they usually do while insisting the money isn’t there.

For the first time since 2013, the Rays are in a position to go for it and are in essence pocketing over 25M rather than going all in.

I understand they went out and signed Morton and I loved that signing but, to then go out and only sign Avisail Garcia was disappointing to say the least. In a free agent market that included hitters like Nelson Cruz, Andrew McCutchen, Brian Dozier, Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, Josh Donaldson and countless others, for the Rays to only come away with Garcia was disappointing to say the least.

Imagine what they could have done with the additional 26.5M they are seemingly are ignoring… The combinations are endless, take your pick:

  • Sign Yasmani Grandal to go along with Zunino (19M)
    • 3-4 win player
  • Sign Wilson Ramos to go along with Zunino (9.5M)
  • Sign Cruz to DH (14M)
    • 2 win player
  • Sign McCutchen to platoon and DH (15-20M)
    • 2-3 win player
  • Sign Donaldson to play 3B (20M)
    • 4 win player
  • Sign Ottavino (9M)
    • 2 win player
  • Sign Robertson (10M)
    • 1.5 win player
  • Sign Marwin Gonzalez to play anywhere(10+M)
  • Sign Kimbrel as closer (TBD…15+M)
    • 2 win player 
  • Sign Dallas Keuchel to solidify dominant rotation (15-25M)

There were and still are countless options available for the Rays to upgrade their already exciting roster for 2019 and beyond. Yet, the Rays sat idly by and watched Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Adam Ottavino, David Robertson, and countless others sign contracts they could have afforded.

But, as Blake Snell conveniently points out, there is still hope for the Rays front office to wash away the stains of their inactivity on this year’s free agent market.

His solution, sign the best closer in the game since Mariano Rivera. The 30 year old is the active saves leader with 333, that is 8 ahead of Fernando Rodney who has been in the league 7 more years.

A 7 time all-star who led the league in saves for four consecutive seasons (’11-’14), Kimbrel would be a welcome addition in the Rays locker room. For the division rival and World Series winning Red Sox, Kimbrel recorded 42 saves and posted an earned run average of 2.74.

While the Tampa Bay Rays have insisted that they are saving money for mid-season additions, they should be making full season additions in preparation for what will be season long battle for supremacy in the American League East.

The Rays have their eyes set on October baseball and it never hurts to have a closer with postseason experience.

While it likely won’t happen, it should. As Blake Snell said, “I’m pushing money. I want us to push as much as we’re able to. As much as we can get rid of, let’s go dump it into his hands.”

By my estimation the Rays have 26.5M to dump into the hands of free agents, namely Kimbrel.

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If the Rays are serious about going for it, this is move they should make. This is a move they need to make. Bravo to Blake Snell for saying it. Now we will just have to wait and see where he lands, I just hope it isn’t back in Boston.

The Tampa Bay Rays have the money to spend, while it may be a little too late, it is time to spend it.