Free agent hurlers Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel are both expected to sign somewhere shortly after midnight EST on June 2 when they will no longer be tied to draft pick compensation, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Josh Tolentino. Craig Edwards from Fangraphs recently put together a valuation of the compensation cost every team would face were they to sign either Keuchel or Kimbrel before the June 2nd expiration date. At this stage, however, even if there were a team willing to stomach the loss of a draft pick, it behooves these free agents to wait out this final week and see if their “lightened load” helps spark a bidding war – “war” being a relative term here.
Where these two end up will continue to be one of the stories of the season. Despite their well-catalogued need for a starting pitcher, the Padres do not appear ready to buy on Keuchel. The Rays, meanwhile, remain in touch with both pitchers, per Rosenthal and Tolentino. Common assumptions about “need” would point to Keuchel as the natural fit for the Rays, but Kimbrel may actually be the more likely of the two. The Rays certainly know how to use a good reliever, though Kimbrel would likely have to open his mind to a less-than-traditional closer’s role.
On the other hand, the Rays have to be intrigued by the possibility of rolling into the second half of the season sporting a top-four of Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, Keuchel and Tyler Glasnow. Health and contract negotiations aside, such a traditional powerhouse rotation would be a fun twist for the revolutionizing Rays. Even if they are still Facebook friends with Keuchel and Kimbrel, however, they’ll need to outbid the Yankees at the very least to snag Keuchel. For Kimbrel, if you can name a contender, you can find a potential landing spot.
Of course, this conversation would make a whole lot of sense were this December. Since it’s now late-May, and neither pitcher seems likely to sign before June 3rd at the earliest, conjecture about widespread interest (on my part) in Kimbrel is a tad comical, even if bullpens are languishing left and right throughout the league. Still, there’s widespread interest in winning, even if evidence often points to the contrary. Point being, though they’ve gone unsigned up til now, the Rays will not be alone in courting the services of Kimbrel (or Keuchel) come early June.