(GAME DATE – Nov. 30, 2019) — The Montreal Metros have signed two relief arms to bolster their bullpen, which ended the 2019 season with the 2nd worst ERA in the Lake League.
A nearly $40 million, 4-year deal was handed to Chris “Cornell” Soundgarden, a 35-year-old right handed middle reliever, who has played for Chicoutimi, Nevada, Hamilton, Arizona, and most recently, Ohio. Over 13 seasons, he is 38-42, with 61 saves, a 3.71 ERA, 544 strikeouts over 587.0 innings, and a career 1.29 WHIP.
Some critics might look at the nearly $10 million a year price tag to be too high for a pitcher of Soundgarden’s caliber. While generally solid, and able to transition into a starting role periodically, his first all-star appearance only came this season, and he has only placed in the top 3 of voting for a pitcher award, the Woodchuck Trophy for relievers, once (in 2018).
But scouts generally remark on his excellent stuff and solid control, and he has one of the most wicked sliders in baseball, factors that seemed to work in his favor with the Montreal Metros in considering his free agency signing.
The second deal announced today went to Chris Kimbrough, another former Ohio Oxen reliever. He signed a deal for $12.8 million over 3 years, substantially less than Soundgarden’s. The 31-year-old, whose repertoire features a 99 mph pinpoint fastball, was 2-1 with 12 saves and a 4.06 ERA last year. In 9 major-level seasons, he is 34-29, with 127 saves, a 3.45 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 347 K’s over 362.1 innings.
Pegged as an ideal setup man, Kimbrough (and Soundgarden) will likely anchor a 2020 bullpen that had trouble closing out games and holding off runs, as Montreal fell to their worst finish by win percentage since 2001. In fact, 2019 was their second-worst season in club history, as their 73-89 record (.451 win pct) sunk them 21 games behind the division leaders, New York, and their team ERA of 4.80 was their worst since 1999, when they hit 4.85.
The Metros are hoping these pitching changes will bring them back into the playoffs, which until 2019 they had not missed once in 13 seasons, a run that included all four of their Bull Cup championships.