After more than seven months of on and (mostly off) negotiations, rampant rumors and lonely bullpen sessions far away from any big league stadium, seven-time all-star closer Craig Kimbrel appears to have reached the end of one of the longest and most bizarre free agent journeys in baseball history.

And after more than seven months of bullpen reconstruction, blown leads and roster machinations, the Chicago Cubs appear to have finally solved their ninth-inning problem.

Kimbrel, the most decorated closer of his generation, reached agreement with the Cubs on a three-year deal, The Athletic reported Wednesday night. The site said the deal is worth approximately $45 million and is pending a physical.

After all the twists and turns in Kimbrel’s fitful trip through free agency, two factors having little to do with his pitching ability – which has produced 333 career saves over a stellar, nine-year career – ultimately sealed his future and led him to Wrigley Field.

First, at midnight Monday, the draft-pick compensation attached to Kimbrel’s signing – which would have penalized the team signing him with the loss of a 2019 draft pick – expired, eliminating one huge disincentive teams had to locking him up.

And second, the Cubs, whose 2019 payroll was pushing up against the luxury tax, were able to use the savings from Ben Zobrist’s leave of absence, as the veteran utility man deals with a personal issue, to get the Kimbrel signing done.

YANKEES: Slugger Aaron Judge could return to the Yankees by the time the New York plays Boston in London on June 29 and 30, and reliever Dellin Betances felt good after facing hitters for the first time in almost three months.

Judge, out since April 21 because of a strained left oblique, is working out at the team’s minor league complex in Tampa, Florida. The Yankees and Red Sox play the first major league regular-season games in Europe when they meet at Olympic Stadium.

“Don’t say I said `he’s going to be back by London,”‘ Manager Aaron Boone explained Wednesday. “But is there a way? Yes. We’ll let the timeline continue to unfold. Bottom line is he’s been doing really good now for a couple of weeks where we feel like the injury is out of there. … He’s got to get built up a little bit differently than some guys coming back. As long as he continues to respond and get built up, we feel good about where he’s at.”

Judge still has not been playing in extended spring training, a step before a minor league injury rehabilitation assignment.

Betances threw 20 pitches to minor leaguers in a simulated game in Tampa.

“He came out of it feeling well,” Boone said. “I think he continues to build momentum.”

Betances has not pitched in a game since March 17, his fourth and final spring training appearance, because of a right shoulder impingement.

Boone said Betances will likely throw a bullpen session Friday before facing hitters again.

Giancarlo Stanton, sidelined since March 31, progressed to an extended spring training intrasquad game and went 1 for 5. Stanton didn’t run out of the batters’ box in any of his at-bats. He had nine plate appearances in a simulated game Tuesday.

Stanton originally strained his left biceps, then his left shoulder. He played in one game for Class A Tampa on May 20, then was told to rest because of left calf tightness.

• Boone said injured infielder Troy Tulowitzki has returned home as he attempts to recover from a strained left calf.

Boone said last weekend that Tulowitzki had pretty much recovered from his injury and the Yankees were discussing when the five-time All-Star might start a minor league injury rehabilitation assignment. However, Tulowiztki has not been working out at the Yankees’ spring training facility in Tampa, Florida.

Tulowitzki last played April 3. He hit .182 with one homer and one RBI in five games before his injury.

INDIANS: Starter Carlos Carrasco will be sidelined indefinitely because of a recently diagnosed blood condition.

The team said Carrasco had been feeling lethargic for weeks, and he is taking a leave of absence to “explore the optimal treatment and recovery options.” Carrasco had been scheduled to start Wednesday’s game against Minnesota before he was placed on the injured list.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

RAYS 4, TIGERS 0: Charlie Morton allowed five hits in seven innings, extending his unbeaten streak to 20 starts and leading Tampa Bay at Detroit.

Morton (7-0) hasn’t lost since Aug. 11, and only Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, at 21 starts, has a longer active unbeaten streak. Morton struck out eight with no walks and needed just 83 pitches to complete seven innings.

Austin Meadows tripled and scored on a throwing error in the third to open the scoring. Tampa Bay scored two more runs in the fifth and snapped its four-game losing streak.

BLUE JAYS 11, YANKEES 7: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a go-ahead, three-run homer off Zack Britton in a five-run eighth inning, Randal Grichuk had a pair of homers and Toronto rallied to beat visiting New York.

Former Yankees infielder Brandon Drury and Grichuk combined for back-to-back homers against Luis Cessa in the eighth. New York has lost the first two games of a three-game set, ending a streak of nine consecutive series wins. New York has not won 10 series in a row since 1954.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

DIAMONDBACKS 3, DODGERS 2: Jarrod Dyson hit a tying double in the eighth inning, David Peralta had a winning single in the 11th, and host Arizona avoided a three-game sweep.

The two-time defending NL champions entered with a season-high, seven-game winning streak.

Eduardo Escobar tripled off Scott Alexander (3-2) leading off the 11th, Ketel Marte was intentionally walked, and Peralta lined his first pitch to right.

PHILLIES 7, PADRES 5: Adam Haseley drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning with his first big league hit, and Philadelphia rallied from a three-run deficit to win at San Diego.

The 23-year-old Haseley made his major league debut Tuesday as the center fielder for the NL East-leading Phillies, who are scrambling to reconfigure their outfield. Odubel Herrera has been on administrative leave since May 28 while he is investigated under baseball’s domestic violence policy, and Andrew McCutchen tore his left ACL on Monday and will miss the rest of the season.

Philadelphia acquired Jay Bruce from Seattle on Sunday.

METS 7, GIANTS 0: Jason Vargas pitched his first shutout in two years, Amed Rosario hit a three-run homer and New York won at home despite losing Robinson Cano hours after his return from the injured list.

Cano played for the first time since straining his left quadriceps May 22 but was pulled at the start of the fifth inning with tightness in the muscle. He favored the leg running to first base on a rally-killing double play in the third.

MARLINS 8, BREWERS 1: Brian Anderson hit his first career grand slam as Miami won at Milwaukee.

INTERLEAGUE

NATIONALS 6, WHITE SOX 4: Trea Turner homered off Alex Colome in the ninth inning, and host Washington extended its winning streak to four for the first time since early September.

Washington led 4-1 in the eighth before another meltdown by a bullpen that has a 6.68 ERA – no other team is above 6.00.

Leury Garcia singled with one out in the eighth off Kyle Barraclough, and Yoan Moncada hit a drive that Juan Soto caught with a leap at the left-field wall.

Jose Abreu followed with his 16th homer, Wander Suero relieved and Welington Castillo homered on his first pitch. Washington’s 12th blown save tied Pittsburgh for second-most behind the New York Mets’ 14.


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