Braves, Kimbrel Agree To 4-Year Extension

The Atlanta Braves may not have been the most active team on the free-agent market over the winter, but extending their young core players has been a completely different story.

The Braves announced they have come to terms on a four-year contract extension with closer Craig Kimbrel on Sunday, making him the fourth player in the last two weeks to reach agreement on a multi-year deal with the club.

According to Jayson Stark of ESPN, Kimbrel will make $42 million over the course of the deal, which includes a $13 million club option for 2018, his age-30 season. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports Kimbrel can also earn $3.5 million worth of incentives based on performance, which could bring the total value of the contract to $58.5 million over five years.

“We are very excited to agree to terms with Craig, who we feel is the best closer in Major League Baseball,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said in the team release. “He is one of the key pieces of our pitching staff and we are happy to keep him in a Braves uniform for at least four more years.”

The deal allows Atlanta to avoid arbitration with the only one of its players to be scheduled for a hearing. Kimbrel’s case was due to be heard on Monday, but the new long-term extension will help both sides avoid the arbitration table for good.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports provided the salary breakdown for the deal. Kimbrel will receive a $1 million signing bonus, followed by salaries of $7 million in 2014, $9 million in 2015, $11 million in 2016 and $13 million in 2017. As mentioned, the fifth-year team option is worth $13 million as well and carries a $1 million buyout.

Kimbrel, who turns 26 in May, was the 2011 National League Rookie of the year and is already a three-time All-Star as well. He has compiled 139 saves in 154 save opportunities to go along with a 1.39 ERA and 381 strikeouts in 231 career appearances. He is poised to become the franchise leader in saves, needing just 16 to surpass John Smoltz’s current record of 154.

He has built a reputation not just for recording saves at a high rate, but the manner in which he does it. Kimbrel holds a 15.1 SO/9 through his first 227.1 innings.

This latest stroke by Wren comes after signing Jason Heyward to a two-year, $13.3 million deal to avoid arbitration, locking up Freddie Freeman to a franchise-record eight-year, $135 million extension last week and, most recently, signing Julio Teheran to a six-year, $32.4 million deal on Friday.

As the Braves prepare to move into their new Cobb County home in 2017, Wren had stated the new ballpark would supply additional revenue streams which would allow the club to execute a “comprehensive plan” designed to keep the young core together over the coming years.

That has clearly been the case, demonstrated by committing what could be $251.2 million worth of extensions to Freeman, Heyward, Kimbrel and Teheran.

Atlanta has several players who could very well be locked up for the foreseeable future. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons as well starters Mike Minor and Kris Medlen could be next in line.  Simmons will not be arbitration eligible until 2016, while Minor has two years of team control remaining and Medlen just one.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game. You can follow Grant on Twitter.

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