Considering Craig Kimbrel's excellence in the first nine seasons of his career, there appears to be a pretty good chance he will deliver an induction speech at Cooperstown. The strategic stature of starting pitchers has slowly diminished, with relievers assuming the responsibility left behind, and the bullpen guys are more readily making the Hall of Fame: Trevor Hoffman last summer, Lee Smith last week, Mariano Rivera next month.
And Kimbrel has been one of the most dominant relievers of his time, striking out 868 of the 2,087 batters he has faced on his way to 333 career saves, the most for any active pitcher. If the right-hander averaged just 30 saves a year over the next six seasons, he'd become the third reliever in history to accumulate 500 saves, following Hoffman and Rivera.
But that long pre-eminence may aid his free agency only marginally this winter, when Kimbrel is pushing upstream against the strong forces of supply and demand. It may be that the closer will get markedly less than anticipated, such as this projection of a $70 million contract.