The Atlanta Braves announced an agreement to a new contract with closer Craig Kimbrel on Sunday morning. Worth $42 million over the next four years, with a team option for 2018 that could bump the total up to $58.5 million if all potential bonuses are realized for Kimbrel; the contract is the largest ever given to a closer who has not yet become a free agent and is the biggest guaranteed and average annual salary ever given to a first-year arbitration eligible pitcher.
This offseason has been a big one for Atlanta, and Kimbrel represents the latest in a series of signings for the Braves that have all but solidified their future. Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Julio Teheran all previously agreed to long-term contracts (Heyward’s was only two years — to call his long-term is a bit premature).
By signing Kimbrel for the next four-five seasons, the Braves have locked down the back-end of the game’s most dominant bullpen. And the closer could not be happier to stay in Atlanta.
“First of all, I want to thank God for giving me the ability that he has and blessing me to allow my family to be so close to me and be in the place where I’ve grown up always wanting to be,” Kimbrel told the media. “Now, I get to say I get to be here for four or five more years. If I didn’t want to be here, this wouldn’t be going on. I couldn’t be any happier.”
This leaves only one piece of the puzzle left for Atlanta: shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Not yet eligible for arbitration, the human vacuum cleaner is the centerpiece of the Atlanta defense and they should spare no expense to keep him. It remains to be seen what sort of salary he will command, but he is a player the Braves should not let slip away. If he hits at all over the course of his career, it will be a bonus; his defense alone is enough to make him a prized commodity.