Craig Kimbrel could be the closer the Orioles need down the stretch

Orioles closer Craig Kimbrel is quieting doubts that he's a collapse risk at the back of the bullpen
Baltimore Orioles v Seattle Mariners
Baltimore Orioles v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages
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For the first two months of the season, Orioles' fans were stressing themselves out thinking about how Mike Elias would address the back of the bullpen at the trade deadline. Craig Kimbrel wasn't perfect in April and May, and his postseason collapse in 2023 was well documented and fresh in our minds.

However, since the start of June things have turned around drastically for the once formidable closer. After Sunday afternoon's matchup against the Athletics, Kimbrel has converted five straight one-run saves and is 23 for 27 on save chances for the season.

More importantly, he's allowed just one earned run since June 1. In that time frame, Kimbrel has pitched to an 0.69 ERA in 13.1 innings, notching 21 strikeouts with just 5 walks. His 13.5 K/9 is third best among all full-time closers, thanks in large part to his curve and sweeper being unhittable.

How will Orioles' GM Mike Elias handle the bullpen at the trade deadline?

It's tough to say for sure, as Elias hasn't been very open about the Orioles' plans. There's an expectation among the fanbase that the O's will target at least one back-end reliever at the deadline, if only to bolster the bullpen's depth ahead of the upcoming postseason push.

But a number of the targets that have been thrown out there would be expensive to acquire. It doesn't make much sense for the Orioles to leverage a significant portion of their future when they have one star closer in Felix Bautista on the IL and another competent pitcher in Kimbrel currently pitching well.

It's possible the O's ask about some under the radar type guys, such as David Robertson or Jason Adam. That type of trade would make the most sense, as the Orioles could grab a solid relief option without paying an arm and a leg to acquire them.

All of this hinges on Kimbrel's ability to perform at an elite level through the rest of July. If Kimbrel starts to show signs of collapse, the chances of Elias acquiring a high-profile bullpen arm go up drastically. But if Kimbrel can stay hot, they might be better suited to use their resources and address other roster needs.

Ultimately, Kimbrel won't be able to escape the postseason demons until he has another run of success in October. But if he's able to pitch at this level for a little longer, it'll go a long way toward building trust with an Orioles fanbase that was ready to jettison him out of Baltimore just a couple months ago.

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