In the past two days, the rumor mill has run rampant with a Craig Kimbrel-Braves reunion. It makes sense to a degree: a homecoming for a fan favorite who undoubtedly would make the bullpen more formidable.
But the Braves and Kimbrel aren’t engaged in conversations. That doesn’t mean it can’t eventually be broached, but it seems to be an unlikely pairing at this time.
Kimbrel, who assumed his mantle of best closer in baseball while with the Braves, is among the elite-level free agents who remain available. Speculation has connected the Braves with Kimbrel for some time, though it’s mostly been unfounded.
A recent picture taken in the Orlando airport, showing Kimbrel waiting in line for his golf clubs, sparked a new level of hopes and dreams among Braves faithful as the team opened camp at Disney. Kimbrel, of course, was in Florida only to play golf, according to friend Freddie Freeman.
The photo was batted around social media for the past 48 or so hours. So much that it even reached players.
“I saw the picture, too, don’t worry,” Freeman said, laughing. “We’ll see. I love Craig, but I have heard nothing.”
MLB free agency is in a sensitive place. Regardless of where the blame goes, it isn’t ideal for the industry to have so many players, especially stars such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Kimbrel, unemployed as camps open.
As such, fan bases across the country have grown more restless. The Braves certainly aren’t exempt, even after adding former MVP Josh Donaldson and beloved catcher Brian McCann. Any hint of activity, however small or meaningless, sparks intrigue; it lies somewhere between genuine curiosity and grasping at straws.
In Kimbrel’s case, it’s a stretch made worse because it is a logical connection (however unlikely). But wherever Kimbrel ends up, he still has fans in the Braves clubhouse.
“I love Craig,” Freeman said, echoing McCann’s words from the day before. “I talked to Craig two days ago, he’s in town. I know that. He asked me to golf – that means nothing. … He’s in here to play some golf.”
Perhaps that quiets this rumor – with another likely just around the corner.