It may have taken a few extra months, but we can finally declare that Hot Stove season is over.
The last two major free agents are off the board after Craig Kimbrel agreed to a three-year, $43 million deal with the Chicago Cubs and Dallas Keuchel joined the Atlanta Braves on a one-year, $13 million deal.
Deals for both free agents not surprisingly gained steam this week after the MLB draft commenced. Since both players refused qualifying offers during the winter, that meant both had draft pick compensation attached if they signed prior to the draft.
With both signings coming after the deadline, the Cubs and Braves only had to worry about writing a large check. And most would agree that both teams got a bargain relative to the asking price and past market values for an ace reliever and former Cy Young winner.
While the Cubs and Braves are obviously feeling good about that, some of the teams they are contending with and were negotiating against can’t be thrilled with these outcomes.
Here, we’ll take a look at each team impacted by these signings and determine whether they are winners or losers based on the outcome.
Every team in MLB needs relief help. The Cubs perhaps less so than most. They entered Thursday top 10 in bullpen ERA, and might soon be getting back former closer Brandon Morrow. Nonetheless, you can never have enough depth, and Kimbrel should bring late-inning stability for the next three seasons.
A better fit you will not find.
The Braves were in need of rotation help with Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman mired in slumps. On the flip side, Keuchel was in apparent need of a total change of scenery after struggling to close out his Astros career. Both sides get what they need, and do so without overcommiting.
The Braves can move on at season’s end if Keuchel’s performance doesn’t match his reputation. Keuchel has an opportunity to rebuild value and make himself more attractive on the market this winter. There’s almost no downside for either side given the circumstances, and it could pay off big for both. Especially the Braves.
The Phillies grasp on the NL East isn’t as strong as it once was. This week’s developments won’t help matters. On Monday, the Phillies lost Andrew McCutchen for the season with a torn ACL. Now the Braves, their primary competition in the division, have added a former Cy Young Award winner.
It shines a brighter light on what Philadelphia needs to get done before the trade deadline. The Phillies could use more depth in the rotation, bullpen and outfield despite the recent addition of Jay Bruce.
Philadelphia may have won the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, but if its current two-game division lead doesn’t hold, Keuchel’s signing could prove to be the pivotal moment.
New York Yankees
The Yankees were impacted on both fronts.
They reportedly pursued Keuchel until the final moments, but failed to match or better the Braves offer. Given Keuchel’s salary, it’s understandable why Yankees fans are disappointed they couldn’t get a deal done.
They have a clear need for another starting pitcher. Though the rotation has posted top 10 numbers this season, there are no shortage of concerns. Luis Severino has been out since spring training and might not be back. James Paxton and CC Sabathia have both missed ample time. And JA Happ has struggled more often than not. Keuchel’s addition could have helped solidify things sooner than later. Instead, they’ll be deep in the trade market.
On the plus side, Kimbrel signing with Chicago means he will not return to Boston. For now anyway, that might be enough to offset the sting of losing on Keuchel.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox were content to let Kimbrel walk in the offseason, instead spending money on other needs. In turns out that the bullpen is a pretty big need, and Kimbrel was more affordable than previously thought.
While a reunion was probably never in the cards, it has to be a tough pill to swallow to see Kimbrel end up with Theo Epstein and company in Chicago on a bargain deal. Now the Red Sox, who have gone without a true closer all season, will have to look elsewhere to bulk up a bullpen that’s lacking reliable arms.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Rays were actually close to signing Kimbrel. That would have been a huge move for a team that doesn’t typically battle for big free agents.
That disappointment aside, the Rays can’t be too displeased with how things played out. Kimbrel ended up out of the division, and Keuchel isn’t coming. They’re also still well positioned to make other big moves, and seem anxious to do so. That’s good news for Rays fans.
The Brewers needed a starter, but decided not to wait on Keuchel. Instead, they signed Gio Gonzalez on the cheap.
How’s that working out? Well, Gonzalez is currently on the injured list with a dead arm, while Keuchel signed a short-term deal that possibly could have fit their budget.
Oh, and the Cubs signed Kimbrel.
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