Lake Buena Vista, FL, United States (4E Sports) – The Atlanta Braves have signed Craig Kimbrel to a four-year deal with a basic value of $42 million plus a $13 million option for the 2018 season, which could push its worth to a maximum of $58.5 million.
The deal guarantees Kimbrel an average salary of $10.5 million over the next four years that could reach an average of $11.7 million over the next five years.
The Braves announced the deal Sunday morning, approximately 24 hours before the scheduled arbitration hearing to determine whether Kimbrel’s 2014 salary would be the team’s offer of $6.55 million or his request of $9 million.
The contract is the largest ever given to a closer who has not yet become a free agent. It also provides him the largest guarantee and average annual value ever given to any first-year arbitration-eligible pitcher.
“There was a lot of creativity at the end to try to bridge the gap of being fair to both sides. To his credit, he was willing to bridge it in a creative way. If he continues to perform at this level, he’s going to get more,” said Braves general manager Frank Wren said.
In the 210 appearances he has made since the start of the 2011 season, Kimbrel has converted 138 of 153 save opportunities, produced a 1.48 ERA and struck out 42.9 percent of the batters he has faced. No other Major League closer has converted more than 110 saves during this span.
While becoming the youngest pitcher to ever record a 50-save season in 2013, Kimbrel also became the first closer in Major League history to record 40-plus saves in each of his first three full seasons.
“You just look at what he has contributed to the team his first three years in the big leagues,” Wren said. “It’s not only special, it’s historic.”