With all the speculation about Justin Upton being dealt before the deadline, closer Craig Kimbrel could also be moved for numerous reasons. The fact that Kimbrel is under contract for the next three years, and also given the fact the San Diego Padres have a couple of in-house replacements, leads me to believe he too could be used to rebuild the farm system. That is if the Padres team decides to go down that road.
When the Padres acquired Kimbrel on Easter Sunday, the day before the season started, he was viewed as the last piece for a Padres run at the play-offs. That has not exactly worked out as the team has struggled to be consistent all year-long and Kimbrel himself has had some horrible outings. His numbers are mostly inflated due to some appearances when he was used in non-save situations. He still has 17 saves on the season. His present ERA of 3.67 is inflated at the moment, but at one time it was over 5.00 on the season. He is clearly pitching better and will likely come very close to his 1.80 career ERA once the season comes to an end.
The value of Craig Kimbrel is very difficult to gauge. The Padres paid a hefty price in assuming Melvin Upton Jr’s contract while dealing a very good prospect in Matt Wisler. The Padres also traded Cameron Maybin to the Braves to rid themselves of his contract. Maybin has since looked like a man possessed. Hitting .288 on the season with five home runs and 35 runs batted in with 13 stolen bases. Upton Jr. had been hurt with a foot fracture and has just recently started his Padres tenure. He is currently hitting .174 in 23 at bats so far this season.
Kimbrel is by far the best young closer in the game. With all due respect to Aroldis Chapman, Kimbrel has been more consistent for a longer period of time. It is rumored that the Reds have been shopping Chapman around in an attempt to see what his value is. Chapman is all set to be a free agent at the end of the 2016 season.
The list of suitors would be long, but would the Padres actually consider moving a quality closer like Kimbrel? The answer would be yes, provided the team was able to acquire a player or two that they really covet. Losing Kimbrel would be tough, but the team has current players who could step into the role if needed. Joaquin Benoit has a lot of closing experience, but one would assume if Kimbrel is moved, Benoit too would be moved. Dale Thayer and Kevin Quackenbush have both closed games for the Padres before. Not particularly ideal closers, but each can perform if need be. Thayer recorded seven saves in 2012 for the Padres and Quackenbush earned six saves in 2014 for the Friars. Each is capable of closing but neither would probably be a long-term solution there.
The obvious choice to take over if Kimbrel is moved would be Brandon Maurer. He has looked absolutely unhittable in recent weeks and has both the mentality and stuff to be a dominant closer. Maurer was acquired for Seth Smith from the Seattle Mariners and might prove to be the best addition made by G.M. A.J Preller. Maurer does have all the ability and attitude, but with no prior experience the experiment could easily blow up on the Padres. Maurer has a very high upside and could be used in the rotation as well.
Andrew Cashner would also make an interesting potential closer. Cashner can easily hit triple digits on the radar gun and has a sort of nasty attitude. Pitching with all the pressure of a win on his shoulders could make Cashner very effective. If he was to be given a shot in the bullpen, the team would need an effective pitcher to replace him in the rotation. James Shields and Tyson Ross make a solid one and two pitcher, but losing Cashner and his potential would be tough to replace. He has failed to live up to expectations so far this season, but still has nasty stuff on the mound.
With all these potential replacements at the closer position, the Padres could deal Kimbrel and not lose too much on their Major League roster. The return for Kimbrel could be huge and the Padres could very well entertain offers for the stud relief pitcher. The next few weeks are key to the season for the Padres. A lot of different scenarios could happen. Padres fans will just have to wait and see what G.M. A.J. Preller decides to do with his team. Anything can truly happen. Craig Kimbrel could easily be dealt or he could be a Padre for the rest of his career. The Padres have many options on what direction to take the team.