NL Notes: Kimbrel, Mets, Brewers, Giants, Morrow, Cubs

Free agent reliever Craig Kimbrel is “still in touch” with the Mets and Brewers, tweets The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who notes that the Mets would only sign the 30-year-old if he were open to “any role” in the team’s bullpen. Rosenthal reported a week ago that the flamethrower’s price has dropped substantially, though whether or not he’s budged on the desire to pitch only in the ninth inning is still an open question. Both clubs’ pens have been far shakier than anticipated in the early going: indeed, apart from the lights-out performance of offseason acquisition Edwin Diaz, New York’s pen has arguably been the league’s worst. Milwaukee, too, has lost Corey Knebel to Tommy John, was without stalwart Jeremy Jeffress until this week, and has gotten middling-at-best output from all other contributors not named Josh Hader. Still, it’s the sloppy rotation – beset by a thus-far return to normalcy from Jhoulys Chacin and a gopher-ball binge embarked upon by rookies Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta – that seems most in need of the Crew’s attention. Allocating what little resources purportedly remain to anything other than a veteran starter would seem a curious choice indeed.

In other news from around the Senior Circuit…

  • Per Rosenthal, the Giants are already “willing to talk” about some of their veteran relievers, though closer Will Smith doesn’t appear to be among the names on the list. Lefty Tony Watson, who’s seen his average fastball velocity dip to a career-low 91.0 MPH, figures to be at the fore, along with the richly-paid Mark Melancon. Sam Dyson, Trevor Gott, and Nick Vincent, all of whom’ve had strong 2019 debuts, would likely also be in the mix, with the former’s $5MM 2019 salary seemingly the impetus for such an early position on the block. The club would likely jump at the chance to move Melancon, 34, who’s owed approximately $29MM through 2020. The former closer hasn’t allowed a run thus far in ten ’19 IP, but signs of major regression lurk beneath: the righty’s allowed hard contact at a rate of above 40% for the second consecutive season (after a career-high of 27.1% in his first nine MLB campaigns), has seen his swinging strike rate plummet to a career-worst 8.0%, and is again failing to strike batters out at an alarming rate. Any Melancon move would likely need to be offset by either another bad contract or a significant chunk of change heading with him, but the ever-creative Farhan Zaidi may yet have something up his sleeve.
  • Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow, who’s mixed occasional big-league appearances around a litany of DL/IL stints in his 13-year MLB career, has been shut down in his attempted return from a right elbow injury. The 34-year-old was scheduled to miss just the season’s first month, but “did not recover well” from a bullpen session he threw earlier this week, according to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. The club, who’s already shuffled multiple bullpen pieces after a disastrous late-inning start in the early going, was counting heavily on Morrow to stabilize the mishmash crew. No timetable’s been set for the righty’s return, so the club will have to lean primarily on the well-traveled arms of Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, and Brandon Kintzler in close-and-late situations.

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