The Cubs made a splash of a signing three weeks ago by inking Craig Kimbrel to a three-year contract (with a fourth-year option).
After a brief time in extended spring training and four appearances for Triple-A Iowa, he’s joining the big-league roster for Thursday afternoon’s contest:
Maddon said Tony Barnette will be optioned to clear a spot in the bullpen for Kimbrel.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 27, 2019
Kimbrel allowed just two hits in 3⅔ innings at Iowa, and one of those was a home run in a game Kimbrel started because storms were headed toward Des Moines and the Cubs wanted to make sure he got his work in. He walked one and struck out four in his brief time in an I-Cubs uniform.
As I noted in the recap to Wednesday’s loss, there will be some hoopla regarding Kimbrel’s arrival for Thursday’s game, but it won’t have any impact until the Cubs actually have a ninth-inning lead to preserve. They have had only two such leads in the first nine games of this homestand, and of course that’s mainly on the offense’s failure to produce situationally.
I wanted to say a few things here about Tony Barnette, who made two appearances in his first stint as a Cub, throwing 1⅓ innings and allowing two hits and one run. Barnette was decent for the Rangers in 2018 (2.39 ERA, 0.911 WHIP in 22 games covering 26⅓ innings), but he’s 35 years old and honestly, I don’t see anything special in his stuff or repertoire. He throws around 91 miles per hour and there are literally dozens of guys on the scrap heap who could do better. One of the things the Cubs have lacked in their bullpen that other teams have is a selection of relievers who can consistently throw 95-plus. The addition of Kimbrel will help that, obviously. But that’s one of the failures of the current front office — a failure to identify and find guys like this, either through the draft or international signing, or by trade. They’re going to have to be better at this.
In the meantime, here’s hoping Kimbrel gets — and completes — a save opportunity this afternoon.