The Phillies put an end to the lengthiest, most high-profile free agent pursuit in MLB history today when they agreed to terms with Bryce Harper on a 13-year contract worth a record $330MM, And while there have been suggestions that the Phils could look into Dallas Keuchel and/or Craig Kimbrel once their pursuit of the market’s top two position players (Harper and Manny Machado) had wrapped up one way or another, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com tweets that it’s “unlikely” the Phils would sign either unless one pitcher’s asking price suddenly dropped to a short-term deal. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman offers similar thinking, tweeting that while the Phils “may” look into the market’s top remaining free agents, the organization’s “initial thought” would be short-term.
It’s been a quiet offseason in terms of rumors surrounding both pitchers. Keuchel and Kimbrel have different agents but both entered free agency reportedly hoping to score contracts of $100MM or more; that initial asking price may have turned off some suitors entirely, as there’s been little in the way of teams reported to have interest in the duo. That certainly doesn’t mean that the two haven’t had any interest, but the fact that they’re unsigned with just hours until the calendar flips to March also (obviously) suggests that their current asking price isn’t generating much in the way of bites from potential suitors. Unsurprisingly, both are still in search of multi-year deals, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
Either pitcher would be an obvious fit for the Phillies, though after adding Harper, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura already this winter, it doesn’t seem as though GM Matt Klentak, president Andy MacPhail and owner John Middleton are prepared to pay top-of-the-market prices. Still, the Phillies are presently relying on a trio of unproven starters — Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez — behind ace Aaron Nola and veteran Jake Arrieta. Velasquez has long been tabbed as a potential reliever in the end anyhow, and bringing Keuchel aboard could push him to that role while adding a durable, dependable arm to the mix.
In the bullpen, the Phillies are looking at Robertson and sophomore Seranthony Dominguez as a formidable one-two punch at the back end of games. A rebound from Hector Neris and/or better health from veterans Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter would give Philadelphia an even deeper collection of ’pen arms, but even with that potentially strong quintet, Kimbrel would push everyone down a peg and give manager Gabe Kapler a cavalcade of impressive arms. (It should be noted, too, that there’s at least a bit of early concern surrounding Hunter’s right arm.)
Even after adding Harper on his record-setting deal, the Phillies’ 2019 payroll projects at just north of $163MM. Their luxury-tax ledger is a bit more crowded at a projected $191.1MM at present (per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez), so adding either Kimbrel or Keuchel would likely put the Phils over the $206MM barrier (barring the trade of another player on a guaranteed contract).