Orioles in agreement with Kimbrel, decline to make selection in major league phase of Rule 5 draft

NASHVILLE – Reliever Craig Kimbrel has passed his physical and signed a contract with the Orioles for the 2024 season that also includes an option for 2025.

Multiple reports had the deal done, and an industry source confirmed it to MASNsports.com.

The New York Post reported that Kimbrel will receive $12 million next season and has a $1 million buyout in 2025 on a $13 million club option. The deal guarantees $13 million and will be the largest from the Orioles since Mike Elias became the club's executive vice president/general manager, overtaking the $10 million deal Kyle Gibson got last winter.

A late-inning reliever was a top priority for Elias, with closer Félix Bautista out next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October.

Kimbrel, who turns 36 in May, ranks eighth on the all-time saves list with 417 over his 14 seasons. The nine-time All-Star posted a 3.26 ERA, 1.043 WHIP, and .611 OPS against this year with the Phillies, registered 23 saves and averaged 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

The right-hander was voted National League Rookie of the Year in 2011 after posting a 2.10 ERA with 46 saves in 79 games and striking out 127 batters in 77 innings. His manager was Orioles bench coach Fredi González.

Kimbrel figures to get first crack at the closer's job at that cost. However, Yennier Cano inherited the job from Bautista and finished the season with eight saves. He's also in the mix.

Manager Brandon Hyde could play matchups on some nights, as he did at times without Bautista.

The Orioles also were linked to relievers Josh Hader, Robert Stephenson, Jordan Hicks and Aroldis Chapman as they arrived in Nashville.

They haven't announced the Kimbrel signing.

“When he’s on, he’s a lockdown pitcher,” said backup catcher James McCann, who stopped by the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center earlier today. “He’s a guy who’s intimidating. He’s obviously got the stuff. He’s been doing it for so long. But he’s definitely a veteran guy who can come in and be a lights-out type inning where you know, similar to Bautista, when he’s grabbing the ball, you know the game is over.”

Update: The Orioles announced the signing. Their 40-man roster has 37 players.

* The Orioles didn’t make a selection or lose a player in the major league portion of today’s Rule 5 draft that marks the ending of the annual Winter Meetings.

The streak is over. Perhaps a new one can start at next year’s gathering.

The Orioles hadn’t passed in the first round since 2005, including the 2021 meetings canceled due to the lockout.

Two teams ahead of the Orioles on the selection list, the Rays and Dodgers, had full 40-man rosters and couldn’t participate. The Orioles moved up from 29th to 27th.

The shuffling continued when the Angels passed at No. 7, the Pirates at No. 9, the Tigers at No. 11, the Red Sox at No. 12, the Giants at No. 13, the Reds at No. 14, the Yankees at No. 16, the Cubs at No. 17, the Marlins at No. 18, the Diamondbacks at No. 19, the Twins at No. 20, the Mariners at No. 21, the Blue Jays at No. 22, the Phillies at No. 24, the Astros at No. 25 and the Brewers at No. 26.

The Braves also declined to make a selection to close out the first round.

Only 10 selections were made, and the Orioles couldn’t be enticed.

The 40-man roster holds at 36 players, with closer Craig Kimbrel expected to sign a free agent contract.

All of the players eligible for the draft were left unprotected and none were chosen, including outfielder Hudson Haskin, the 17th-ranked prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline.

In the Triple-A phase, the Orioles selected 20-year-old pitcher Nelvis Ochoa from the Rockies’ Dominican Summer League team.

Ochoa, a native of Venezuela, went 6-2 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 17 relief appearances and struck out 37 batters in 34 2/3 innings. He’s posted a 3.52 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 25 games over two professional seasons, with 11 walks and 52 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings.

The Orioles passed in the second round, bringing their total Rule 5 haul to one minor league player.

The Guardians picked right-hander Connor Gillispie from the Orioles’ Double-A roster in the second round.

Gillispie, 26, registered a 3.89 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 27 games (14 starts) with the Bowie Baysox. He was a ninth-round selection in the 2019 amateur draft out of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Sixty-three players were selected in the Triple-A phase.

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