Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel could finally be landing an MLB deal in the near future.
As pointed out by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (paywall), both players are expected to sign a contract after midnight (eastern time) on June 2, at which point neither pitcher will have draft-pick compensation attached to them.
If they were to sign before then, a team would forfeit a first-round compensation pick. So for the Twins, that would mean losing the 39th overall selection in the draft.
Locally, Judd Zulgad of SKOR North reported the Twins remain a possibility for Kimbrel, with MLB reporter Jon Heyman also saying Kimbrel is a suitor for the Twins, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Rays and Yankees.
Dontrelle Willis of MLB Network recently said the Twins should go out and get Kimbrel now because, "it will take at least a month to get settled and get big league ready to be effective." Willis added that the addition of Kimbrel would send a message to the locker room and fans that the Twins are serious about going deep in the postseason.
Bleacher Report has the Twins at 5-1 odds of landing Kimbrel and only the Braves have better odds to land him.
Obviously the Twins haven't commented on the situation, but clearly there's enough steam and reports out to there to suggest Minnesota is interested in the reliever's services.
Even though Michael Pineda has struggled, the Twins' rotation has been solid and I'd rather see them pick up Kimbrel over Keuchel at this point.
The main reason Kimbrel is still unsigned is because of the draft compensation attached to him, in addition to his initial contract demands – they were massive, reportedly – and the fact he's coming off a postseason – in which he won a World Series – where he allowed seven earned runs in eight appearances.
Still, Kimbrel is a veteran pitcher who would probably be a welcomed addition to a Twins bullpen that doesn't have playoff experience.
If we're just looking at what Kimbrel did last year in the regular season, he's automatically the best player in the Twins' bullpen.
- Kimbrel in 2018: 2.74 ERA, 38.9 K%, .145 OBA and 0.99 WHIP
- Twins bullpen in 2019: 4.19 ERA, 25.1 K%, .246 OBA and 1.39 WHIP
- League average bullpens: 4.35 ERA, 23.6 K%, .242 OBA and 1.36 WHIP
It's not that the Twins' bullpen has been horrendous, it's just been incredibly average and with Minnesota's lineup and starting pitching exceeding expectations, it's obviously the weakest link on the team.
The Twins have used a closer by committee this season, with Blake Parker and Taylor Rogers picking up eight and four saves, respectively.
Rogers might be the Twins' best reliever, but he's been relied on a lot lately and Minnesota's last series against the Brewers proved the team needs more high-leverage arms. Rogers allowed three earned runs and two dingers in his two appearances against a very good Brewers team.
Parker, Rogers, Ryne Harper and Matt Magill have all been solid but the addition of Kimbrel makes everyone in the pen even better.
- Parker: 1.96 ERA, 21.1 K %, .190 OBA 1.04 WHIP
- Harper: 1.61 ERA, 23.3 K%, .173 OBA 0.86 WHIP
- Rogers: 2.38 ERA, 29.7 K% .283 OBA, 1.41 WHIP
- Magill: 1.42 ERA, 32.7 K%, .191 OBA, 1.11 WHIP
Not signing Kimbrel in the offseason has nothing to do with the Twins being cheap. If that was the case, then every team in baseball was being cheap. Also, if the Rays are reportedly in on Kimbrel – the most frugal team in the league with the lowest payroll – that tells you Kimbrel is worth it.
However, the lingering question is what will he cost? I think it's fair to assume Kimbrel will still command a contract in the $15-20 million dollar range, with possible incentives built in to make him richer.
And will it be a one-year or multi-year deal? Since he sat out for so long, it wouldn't surprise me to see him sign with a team that employs him beyond 2019.
So come next Monday, June 2, a bidding war is likely to take place for his (and Keuchel's) services. If the Twins can land him, their World Series odds would be on the rise.
If they don't, look for the Twins to be buyers for arms at the deadline.