As the July 30 trade deadline approaches, there might not be a shinier trade chip in all of Major League Baseball than Chicago Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel.
Though he only checks in at No. 10 on B/R's big board of 2021 trade candidates, ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted that Kimbrel will be the "most coveted player" on the market for rival front offices ahead of the deadline.
Plenty of teams need bullpen help, after all, and Kimbrel is arguably having a better season than any other reliever. The eight-time All-Star has appeared in 35 games and racked up a 0.53 ERA with 58 strikeouts and only 11 hits and 11 walks allowed over 33.2 innings.
So without further hesitation, let's get into the 33-year-old's potential trade value and then look at five teams where he would fit best.
What Is Kimbrel's Trade Value?
Kimbrel is in the middle of a season that's not only good, but historically good. To wit, his 0.53 ERA has him on track to break Zack Britton's record for a reliever who made at least 50 appearances in a season.
It also shouldn't be overlooked that Kimbrel has been completely unbothered by MLB's crackdown on foreign substances. The sticky stuff ban went into effect on June 21, yet all he's done since then is rack up five straight scoreless appearances marked by nine strikeouts, one hit and two walks.
Kimbrel is pulling in a $16 million salary, with a $1 million buyout on a $16 million option for 2022 that will vest or revert to a team option if it doesn't. He's hypothetically controllable beyond 2021 either way, so MLB Network's Jon Heyman was probably right when he ventured that the Cubs will get "a ton" for Kimbrel.
The best-case scenario would be a haul akin to the one they paid for Aroldis Chapman in 2016, in which they gave up a package headlined by a young Gleyber Torres, who was MLB.com's No. 24 prospect at the time. Even if that doesn't come to fruition, Kimbrel is surely worth at least one blue-chip talent.
If it's ultimately a question of which contenders need Kimbrel the most and also have the capital to pay for him, we like the following five teams.
5. Philadelphia Phillies
Dave Dombrowski already has an extensive track record of blockbuster trades. Among those, of course, is a deal that brought Kimbrel to the Boston Red Sox in November 2015.
Now the Philadelphia Phillies' president of baseball operations, Dombrowski finds himself tasked with bolstering a contention run that's being held back by a leaky bullpen. Though the Phillies are second in the National League East at 47-45, their bullpen has a 4.62 ERA and is in the red for win probability added.
Even if adding him wouldn't solve everything, going back to the Kimbrel well is the best possible move that Dombrowski can make. He would not only solidify the ninth inning but also form a potentially deadly relief duo with underrated left-hander Ranger Suarez.
One catch, however, is that Dombrowski is actually comfortable with Suarez in the closer's role. Another is that the Phillies have precious few prospects with which to entice the Cubs, and maybe none at all if their two Tier 1 talents—right-hander Mick Abel and shortstop Bryson Stott—are off the table.