Closing with the closer: Craig Kimbrel agrees to deal with Chicago Cubs

Craig Kimbrel won’t be joining the Minnesota Twins.

The free-agent closer agreed to  three-year, $43 million fully guaranteed deal that includes a fourth-year option, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Kimbrel will receive $10 million this season and $16 million in 2020 and 2021. There is a $1 million buyout on a club/vesting option for the fourth year. Passan reported that the $10 million Kimbrel will receive this season is not prorated.

Ken Rosenthal, who broke the story of Kimbrel’s agreement with the Cubs, reported Wednesday morning that Chicago was “pushing hard” for Kimbrel in an attempt to upgrade a bullpen that has been without closer Brandon Morrow this season.

The Twins were known to be talking to both free agent starter Dallas Keuchel and Kimbrel and the New York Post reported Tuesday that one MLB executive described Kimbrel as a priority for the Twins. The Yankees were reportedly the team in the lead for Keuchel.

Kimbrel and Keuchel remained on the market in large part because any team signing them before Monday would have had to give up draft-pick compensation due to the fact that both pitchers had been made qualifying offers by their previous teams. The compensation went away with the start of the MLB draft this week.

Kimbrel, 31, would have been an upgrade to the Twins’ bullpen, and with the team among the best in baseball pursuing him made sense. Kimbrel has 333 career saves (the most of any current big-league reliever) and a 1.91 ERA in nine seasons. However, he had a 5.91 ERA in nine postseason appearances last year, although Kimbrel did have six saves as the Red Sox won the World Series.

The Cubs were in desperate need of bullpen help, having gone 12-for-23 in save chances this season. Nonetheless, Chicago was tied for first place with Milwaukee atop the NL Central. Other teams linked to Kimbrel included Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Washington and Boston.

The Twins entered their game Wednesday in Cleveland with a 10.5-game lead over the Indians in the American League Central. The Twins could give their rotation or bullpen a boost by making a deal(s) before the July 31st trade deadline.