Kimbrel and Keuchel Finally Sign

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This past week has been very busy for Major League Baseball.  Last Monday was the annual first year player draft.  I advise that you make sure to come on back to the Boston Sports Syndicate website to check out how I feel that the Red Sox did in the draft.  Expect to see that article later this week.

Photo courtesy of sportingnews.com
Beside the draft, the baseball world saw two of its highest profile free agents in the 2018 class finally sign their new contracts

Closer Craig Kimbrel and starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel were still unemployed as the calendar turned to June.  This was a very rare situation.  Pitchers as good as these two usually do not have to sit around unsigned this late into the regular season.  Whether it was their initial contract demands, or the draft pick compensation that was attached to them (I would say it was the combination), these players had to wait a long time to sign.

Both pitchers were offered qualifying offers from their original teams (Boston and Houston).  The qualifying offer is a one-year deal worth the mean of the top 125 paid players in the league.  The value of last season’s qualifying offer was around 18 million dollars.  The player can decide to decline the qualifying offer and seek out a multiyear deal with a new franchise.  If the player signs with a new team then they must hand over a draft pick to the original organization.  An early pick too.  A pick that has enough value that it has deterred teams from signing certain players.  Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel were those players.

Shop the Stars and Stripes Collection at MLBshop.comWhen the first-year player draft started on June 3rd the penalty for signing these guys went away.  The franchises who brought in Kimbrel and Keuchel did not have to lose any draft compensation.  It wasn’t a coincidence they signed after the draft started.

Red Sox fans are very familiar with Craig Kimbrel.  He was the closer for Boston for three seasons and a very good one at that.  In his three seasons with the team he had a 2.44 ERA, recorded over 100 saves and struck out more than 300 batters.  In 2017, Kimbrel struck out 126 hitters in only 69 extremely nice innings.  I think it is safe to say that he was quite dominant as the Sox closer.  Although he wasn’t his typical shut down self, Kimbrel was part of the championship team from 2018.

Personally, I am sad to see him move on.  He was good here and has the skills to continue to be good for a couple for years.  Last week Kimbrel signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Cubs.  Theo Epstein just upgraded his bullpen in a major way.

So far this season, the Cubs have had one of the worst bullpens in the entire league.  Chicago was hoping Brandon Morrow would be their closer when the season kicked off, but he is hurt.  Then the franchise turned to veteran relief pitcher Pedro Strop.  He was fine but he has had his fair share of problems too, including injuries.  He was also on the shelf for some time this year.  The revolving door of closers is the team’s biggest hurdle if they want to contend for another World Series.  That’s where Kimbrel comes in.

In a weird turn of events where Cubs highly valued utility guy Ben Zobrist was put on the restricted list for personal reasons.  Chicago now had the money to sign Kimbrel without any sanctions.  I think Kimbrel can be a huge addition to the Cubs.  Kimbrel’s ability to get strikeouts is what makes this addition good for the Cubs.  Adding a closer like Kimbrel without having to trade any prospects is huge.  Chicago was able to deepen their pen by just spending money.  A smart move if you ask me.  Kimbrel should be in the big-leagues by the end of June and be a major contributor right away.  Hey Chicago Cubs fans…get ready for the mantis!

Dallas Keuchel has a Cy Young Award, he has a World Series Championship ring, but until last week he didn’t even have a team to pitch for.  The former Houston Astros starting pitcher couldn’t find a job for the same reasons that plagued Kimbrel’s negotiations.  Keuchel wanted big money and it was going to cost his new team one of their early round draft picks.  Two things that would not have been an issue a few years ago, but now teams are becoming more and more cautious in free agency.  A pitcher going into his 30’s with a career ERA of 3.66 I guess just wasn’t worth breaking the bank or losing a draft pick for.

No one appreciated the World Series victory more than Keuchel.  He was around when the Astros were losing 100 games, and he was the squad’s ace when he took home the Cy Young Award.  Dallas K played his part in winning a championship for Houston.  I think it is understandable why Keuchel was looking for a sizable contract.  After a long, long wait, the Atlanta Braves signed Keuchel to a one-year deal, beating out the Yankees and others.

Atlanta didn’t just sign their ace, but they did sign a potentially very solid pitcher.  Dallas K’s most desirable skill is his ability to take the hill every fifth day.  He has pitched 200 innings three times in his career, and the times he didn’t reach that mark he still tossed 150 innings.  Keuchel will not have a realistic shot at 200 innings this year because of how late he is signing with the Braves.  Atlanta will benefit from the amount of innings Keuchel can pitch from here on out.  He has already started pitching for Atlanta’s AAA team, so his debut for the big club should happen very soon.

Boston fans were happy to see Keuchel head down to Atlanta.  Just days before he made his signing official, rumors were going around MLB that the New York Yankees were pursuing the south paw.  It was even said that he was willing to shave his trademark beard.  That is how close he was to signing with New York.  As of now the Red Sox have a pretty big gap to close if they want to catch their rivals, and the Yankees adding a former Cy Young winner would not help that cause one bit.

Is this going to become the new norm for baseball?  High end free agents won’t be able to sign until the draft passes.  I really think it could be.  Especially if Keuchel and/or Kimbrel perform at their normally high standards.  Be on the lookout free agent Class of 2019.


Follow Matt on Twitter @Matty_wests1de

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Kimbrel and Keuchel Finally Sign
Kimbrel and Keuchel Finally Sign
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