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Washington Nationals Rumors: Do Nats make sense as a Craig Kimbrel suitor?

Multiple reports on Saturday had the Nationals expressing interest in free agent reliever Craig Kimbrel...

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, ESPN’s Buster Olney, and Fancred’s Jon Heyman all reported on Saturday afternoon that they’d heard from sources who said the Washington Nationals were interested in free agent closer Craig Kimbrel, who seems like the next one to sign a new deal after Manny Machado’s contract with the San Diego Padres and Bryce Harper’s with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Rosenthal, while noting that the Nats don’t necessarily need to sign someone in response to Harper’s deal with the Phillies, wrote that major league sources said the Nationals, “maintain interest in signing free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel, a move that would cap off their efforts to construct a powerhouse bullpen and further escalate the competition in the NL East.”

The issues?

Citing’s estimate of a $201.47M luxury tax payroll for the ‘19 Nationals, Rosenthal writes that any deal for Kimbrel would push the organization over MLB’s $206M threshold for the third straight season, “... requiring them to pay a 50 percent penalty for every dollar they spend up to $226 million, and even more if they go higher,” not to mention the fact that since the reliever received a qualifying offer, the Nationals would lose their 3rd and 6th Round picks after already giving up their 2nd and 5th Round picks (along with $1M in International draft space) after they signed Patrick Corbin, (who’d received a qualifying offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks), to a 6-year/$140M deal in December.

Adding Kimbrel to the bullpen along with Doolittle, Trevor Rosenthal, and Kyle Barraclough would give the Nationals a “powerhouse bullpen” and a number of late-inning options.

Rosenthal’s report followed just hours after ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote on Twitter that, “... rival evaluators wonder if Nationals and Kimbrel might be a fit -- and Nats already gave up pick(s) for Corbin.”

Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported that though they have the three arms at the back end of the bullpen, the Nationals, “... remain keenly interested in Craig Kimbrel.”

Kimbrel, 30, is coming off a 42-save season for the World Series-winning Boston Red Sox in which he put up a 2.74 ERA, a 3.13 FIP, 31 walks (4.48 BB/9), and 96 Ks (13.86 K/9) in 62 13 IP. projected a 4-year/$70M deal for Kimbrel earlier this winter. Heyman predicted 4/$72M back in November.’s Jayson Stark wrote in mid-December that the word going around was that the reliever wanted a 6-year/$100M deal this winter, but by the end of the year, Heyman was reporting that the price tag had dropped to around $86M.

Will the Nationals shake things up in the bullpen mix by adding Kimbrel to the back end and either dropping Doolittle back or matching up in the late innings with whichever reliever is a better match for the opposing hitters? Will the Nationals really add a high-priced reliever and guarantee that they do go over the luxury tax threshold for a third straight year? And what about that Anthony Rendon extension?