The Atlanta Braves locked up a key piece of their foundation Sunday by agreeing to a $42 million, four-year contract with All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.
“We are very excited to agree to terms with Craig, who we feel is the best closer in Major League Baseball,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “He is one of the key pieces of our pitching staff and we are happy to keep him in a Braves uniform for at least four more years.”
Kimbrel, 25, gets a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $7 million this year, $9 million in 2015, $11 million in 2016 and $13 million in 2017. The Braves have a $13 million option for 2018 with a $1 million buyout.
Kimbrel, the final Braves player eligible for arbitration, was scheduled for a hearing today. The Braves offered $6.55 million and Kimbrel asked for $9 million. Kimbrel avoided salary arbitration.
The agreement with Kimbrel allows the Braves to retain one of baseball’s most dominant closers. He has 138 saves in the last three seasons, including 50 saves with a 1.21 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 67 innings last year.
He earned one save in 2010 prior to his run of three straight All-Star seasons from 2011-13.
Kimbrel has a 1.39 ERA with 381 strikeouts in 227 1/3 career innings. The hard-throwing right-hander has been successful in 139 of 154 career saves opportunities.
Dempster taking leave
Boston Red Sox right-hander Ryan Dempster plans to take this season off, a decision that surprised teammates and will cost the 16-year veteran $13.25 million in salary.
Dempster said he is stepping away for physical reasons and to spend more time with his family. But he left a slight opening to play in 2015.
“I had an incredible run, a chance to play 16 years in the major leagues and be around a lot of great teammates, made a lot of good friendships, great friendships,” Dempster said. “I’m totally comfortable with it. I’m at peace with my decision.
He added, “I’ve got three amazing children that I want to watch grow up and be around.”
Dempster, whose contract expires after this season, finished his only year with the Red Sox with an 8-9 record and a 4.57 ERA and didn’t get a start during their postseason run to a World Series title.
Dempster pitched with the Florida Marlins, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Red Sox. He is 132-133 with a 4.35 ERA, making the All-Star team in 2008 with the Cubs.
Boston signed Dempster to a $26.5 million, two-year deal in 2013. He will lose half that amount by sitting out this year.
Burnett deal guaranteed
A.J. Burnett and the Philadelphia Phillies have completed a contract that guarantees the pitcher $15 million for 2014 and $22.5 million over two seasons.
Under the deal Burnett would make $33.5 million over two seasons if he makes 30 starts or more in both years.
Over the past two seasons with Pittsburgh Burnett has a 3.31 ERA while winning 26 games.