The idea of the Braves trading Craig Kimbrel is not a new one to this blog. It's been discussed a million times already, and there are certainly plenty of people on both sides of the argument.
However, the idea of dealing Kimbrel this winter as the Braves set their eyes on being more competitive down the road than in 2015 hasn't really been discussed.
Kimbrel is very good at what he does. Since becoming a full-time closer in 2011, he's been the best in baseball by a mile. Kimbrel leads all relievers in WAR with an astounding 10.9 wins over the last four seasons. If Atlanta has a lead in the ninth inning, it's just about guaranteed the team wins. That's a serious weapon to have.
How much winning will the Braves be doing over the next three years, though?
Kimbrel is set to earn $33 million over the next three years, and there's a club option for 2018 that will fetch another $13 million should it be picked up. That's $46 million over four years.
David Robertson just got four years and $46 million from the White Sox. Andrew Miller got four years and $36 million from the Yankees. While Roberton and Miller are fine relievers, neither are as good as Kimbrel is. Kimbrel's contract would be appealing to any team in either league looking for bullpen help.
So here's the question: if the Braves don't look to be serious contenders in 2015 – and possibly 2016 – does it really matter who's the closer?
This isn't to say the Braves couldn't compete in 2015 and 2016. Weird things happen in baseball. But the roster isn't exactly stocked full with talent, and it's going to take another hit when Justin Upton is traded.
If you don't think the Braves are going to make a run in the next 24 months, it makes a lot of sense to trade top assets when they still have plenty of value left. The front office has already done this with Jason Heyward and will likely do so with Upton.
Are the Braves willing to punt the next couple seasons and risk alienating an already frustrated fan base? That's been the question for John Hart and John Coppolella from the day they took over, and it's a question that will hopefully be answered in the coming weeks as the plans for 2015 and beyond become coherent.