Braves Sign Ace Closer Craig Kimbrel To Four-Year Contract

Sunday, February 16, 2014
Craig Kimbrel
Craig Kimbrel
- photo by Tim Evearitt

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. --The Braves have signed Craig Kimbrel to a four-year, $42 million contract that includes a $13 million option for the 2018 season. If the option is exercised and all of the potential bonuses are earned, the package has a maximum value of $58.5 million. This is the largest contract ever given to a closer who has not yet become a free agent.

"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. 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."

The Braves announced the deal on Sunday morning, approximately 24 hours before they had been scheduled to go to an arbitration hearing that would have determined whether Kimbrel's 2014 salary would be the team's offer of $6.55 million or his request of $9 million.

Kimbrel is guaranteed an average salary of $10.5 million over the next four years. If the maximum value is realized, he'll earn an average of $11.7 million over the next five years.

Through his first three seasons as Atlanta's closer, Kimbrel has managed to exceed the lofty expectations he produced during his successful Minor League days, when he was known as "the right-handed Billy Wagner." In the 210 appearances he has made since the start of the 2011 season, Kimbrel has converted 138 of 153 save opportunities, produced a 1.48 ERA and struck out 42.9 percent of the batters he has faced. No other Major League closer has converted more than 110 saves during this span.

While becoming the youngest pitcher to ever record a 50-save season in 2013, Kimbrel also became the first closer in Major League history to record 40-plus saves in each of his first three full seasons.

"You just look at what he has contributed to the team his first three years in the big leagues," Wren said. "It's not only special, it's historic."

Had Kimbrel lost Monday's scheduled hearing and then extended his recent success this upcoming season, he would have been in line to gain a salary between $10-11 million in 2015, which would have been the second of three potential arbitration-eligible seasons.

In the event that Kimbrel would have won this year's hearing, there would have been reason to wonder if the if the Braves would have to trade him at the end of this upcoming season to delete the risk of him proving to be too expensive during his final two arbitration-eligible seasons.

But after Kimbrel's agent, David Meter, got the negotiations rolling again last week, it became apparent that the Braves did not want to lose an elite closer, and Kimbrel did not want to say goodbye to a team that he has dreamed of playing for dating back to his childhood days in Huntsville, Ala.

With this agreement, the Braves have taken another major step in their comprehensive plan to keep a solid portion of their talented young core together in preparation of the opening of their new stadium in 2017. Over the past two weeks, the organization has committed more than $220 million with extensions given to Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Julio Teheran and Kimbrel.

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