Free agent closer Craig Kimbrel to sign with Chicago Cubs

Craig Kimbrel's time in purgatory is finally ending, as the closer is set to sign with the Chicago Cubs, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet official. 

The addition of Kimbrel, a bonafide shutdown closer, is just what the Cubs have needed. The team's overall ERA entering Wednesday was third in the NL, but the bullpen's 11 blown saves is tied for third-worst in the majors.

Pedro Strop was supposed to be the guy in the ninth inning, but has pitched in only 11 games, returning recently after missing nearly a month with a hamstring injury. Steve Cishek has seen save opportunities as well.

Kimbrel, 31, has a 1.91 ERA and 333 saves in his career. He racked up 42 saves in 2018 with the Red Sox and six more in the postseason as Boston won the World Series.

A seven-time All-Star, Kimbrel spent the past three years with the Red Sox. He was drafted by the Braves and played his first five seasons in Atlanta before being dealt to the Padres for the 2015 season. San Diego traded him to Boston in November 2015.

Kimbrel saved 42 games for the Red Sox in 2018. (Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports)

Kimbrel's demands were rumored to be extremely high this winter and was attached to a draft pick – since he received a $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Red Sox – further scaring suitors have. With the draft beginning Monday, he no longer had that pick and attached.

In 2016, the Cubs traded for closer Aroldis Chapman, a deal that put them over the top as they marched to a World Series title. 

The right-hander has at least 30 saves in each of the past nine seasons, impressive longevity for even the most elite of closers. Kimbrel is the active leader in career saves and has a good chance at becoming the third closer to ever record 600 career saves.

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