The Chicago Cubs have proven themselves to be a premier destination for free agents in recent years, but it always helps to have a World Series-winning catcher on your side.
On Friday, the Cubs officially introduced closer Craig Kimbrel as their newest acquisition after signing the hurler to a three-year contract.
During that press conference, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said the team sent several representatives to a bullpen session thrown by Kimbrel, including former catcher David Ross.
“Both guys reported that Craig was in midseason form,” Epstein said. “It just became clear that Craig was serious about his interest in the Cubs, and if there was any chance to get this done, we wanted to.”
Ross did his part to sell Kimbrel on pitching on the North Side, as did numerous members of the Cubs’ current roster.
“He filled me in on a lot,” Kimbrel said. “He spent a lot of time around this group of guys. A number of guys reached out and told me they were here to help. Ross filled me in on the culture of this ball club. If anything, it emphasized how family-oriented this place is. That really resonated with me because that’s the most important thing to me. I’m a husband, a father, and then a baseball player.”
One of the players that reached out to Kimbrel was outfielder Jason Heyward, who played with the closer during the pair’s time in Atlanta.
“Jason wrote me a real long text, saying that he wanted me here,” Kimbrel said. “I replied to him that all I needed to know was ‘where should I live and what number am I going to wear?’”
Kimbrel wore the number 46 with the Red Sox, but since that number is already taken by Pedro Strop, he will wear number 24 when he returns to Chicago.
When he officially signed his contract, Kimbrel was optioned to Triple-A Iowa. He will first report to the Cubs facility in Arizona to continue his preparations for the season.
“It’s going to be tempting to get him here as soon as possible, but we’re trying to plan this thing the right way so that he can be in a position to succeed not just immediately but all the way through October,” Epstein said.