Relax, don’t do it. When you want to sock it to it.
Oh… you thought I was just jamming to some 80s music? I was addressing those who overreacted to free agency.
Unless you are a Diamondbacks or Giants fan, your team did something productive this offseason. Almost every team this offseason did something to either bolster their chances for a pennant or to acquire a better draft pick in 2020. Heck, if you look at the current division standings, some teams that weren’t even trying to win are doing so!
However, there are some teams that could still use additional pieces to achieve these goals. Two players who were on everyone’s Top 15 Free Agents are still available, and this article will analyze which teams should sign them at a given price.
#1 San Diego Padres
The team who has been talking all offseason about how they intend to contend should back up their actions by upgrading a rotation that have a 5.09 ERA. While one starter may not keep the Dodgers from winning the division, it would certainly help their playoff chances.
From 2013-2018, Keuchel never pitched fewer than 144 innings, and has eclipsed 200 on three separate occasions. No member of the current San Diego Padres rotation has more than 150 career innings, so the leadership and bullpen saving is a must for a team with a fine offense and depleted pitching staff. Factor in Keuchel’s elite ground ball rates pitching around a terrific infield defense, and you have a perfect fit.
Contract: 4 years, $72 million
#2 Atlanta Braves
Although a rumor came out last month that the Braves were not “engaged” with Keuchel, they are arguably a better fit than the Padres. Unlike the Padres, a near 100 loss team last year with a lot to prove, the Braves handily won their division last year and need reinforcements badly to keep it that way.
It is important to note that this success came with an over-performing rotation, and Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson are raw rookies. The NL East is without question the deepest division in baseball, and a left-handed starter would be an effective way to contain the power of Bryce Harper, Michael Conforto, and Juan Soto.
The reason the Braves are not #1 on my list is because the team would be unlikely to sign him until June in order to avoid compensation. However, the Braves are the clear fit if Keuchel values winning and need over money.
Contract: 1 year, $14 million (prorated)
#3 St. Louis Cardinals
While the Cardinals do not immediately seem to have a need for pitching, having depth does not immediately translate to a pennant after three consecutive year missing the playoffs. Dakota Hudson has never thrown over 160 innings, and while St. Louis fans will overreact to literally every single Adam Wainwright start this year, we can all agree the chances of him giving 200 quality innings again is slim.
Signing Keuchel to a medium-length deal would not only give the Cardinals the best left-handed pitcher in the NL Central by far, but it would also allow Hudson or Wainwright to return to a bullpen role he’s experienced success in. Even after the recent extensions, missed $200 million contracts to David Price, Jason Heyward, and Giancarlo Stanton give enough reason to believe that the Cardinals still have money to spend.
Contract: 3 years, $52 million
#4. Milwaukee Brewers
I have absolutely no confidence in the pitching staff this year. According to Baseball Reference, the Brewers had the second worst innings pitched per game started in the National League. Their rotation largely hasn’t changed, and excess innings will put strain on an increasingly thin bullpen. Even if the bullpen was healthy the entire year, there is no guarantee that any of them would be as high a quality as they were last year due to the inherently mercurial nature of relievers.
Contract: 4 years, $66.5 million
#5 New York Yankees
Yes, I know that they already signed another left-handed ace. However, the Yankees have lost over 40% of their run production last year due to injuries, and the uncertainty caused by Luis Severino’s injury and CC Sabathia’s inconsistent play may lead to overreactions. Keuchel also has extensive playoff experience, something that is necessary for a team that was had 6/1 odds to win the World Series before the season began.
Contract: 1 year, $16 million
DK Honorable Mentions
Philadelphia Phillies: This team upgraded everywhere this offseason except the rotation. After Nola and Arrieta, the rotation is questionable, and team may still have stupid money to spend.
New York Mets: Probably not happening… but I’d still love to see it. For the record, I am completely on the Brodie Van Wagenen bandwagon.
#1: Boston Red Sox
This is what should and what will happen. As of April 13th, the Boston Red Sox have a bullpen ERA of 6.14, good enough for third-worst in Major League Baseball.
The team’s bullpen is without a clear leader, and his presence alone would rejuvenate a team that is suffering one of the worst World Series hangovers in recent history. As the only pitcher who has ever struck out half the batters he faced in a season, there’s no question he would be effective in the NL East and worthy of the largest contract ever rewarded to a relief pitcher.
Contract: 5 years, $90 million.
#2 Atlanta Braves
As stated prior, the NL East is probably the most competitive division in baseball at the moment. The Braves clearly have the money to sign Kimbrel to a short-term deal. Furthermore, while the Bryce Harper signing garnered the most attention in the division, every other team that intends to compete for the division crown added an elite closer or, in the Nationals case, a complete bullpen makeover. Signing Kimbrel would combat these and allow A.J. Minter and Arodys Vizcaino to become elite set-up men.
Contract: 2 year, $35 million
#3 Chicago Cubs
Yes, I am aware that the Ricketts family has stated time and time again that they do not have the money to sign more free agents. Yes, I know every other publication believes that the Brewers are a perfect fit for Kimbrel. However, can we start asking if Brandon Morrow was ever meant to be a closer?
For a man who has been in the league since 2007, he has a relatively inconsistent track record. His only excellent full year came as a setup man to Kenley Jansen on a loaded Dodgers team, and he turned that year into a multi-year deal to be thrust into a closing situation he isn’t used to. It’s not like the rest of the bullpen or the latter half of the rotation is good either. The Brewers can still win the division without Kimbrel. The Cubs will finish in 4th place if they don’t do something drastic fast.
Contract: 3 years, $50 million
#4 Milwaukee Brewers
Even after my mini-rant, I still have to acknowledge that acquiring Kimbrel would put the Milwaukee Brewers over the top in the division for sure. For all of the excellent players acquired this offseason by NL Central teams, the two best relievers in the division are on the Brewers.
While Jordan Hicks is explosive and Raisel Igleseias has been consistent, the Brewers still have a great chance for a division win despite having a mediocre rotation at best. While Keuchel is probably a better fit here, having the three best relievers in a division even with Cory Knebel injured is too awesome an idea to pass up.
Contract: $1 year, 14 million (pro-rated)
#5 St. Louis Cardinals
After the Greg Holland fiasco last year, I doubt this happens, but hear me out. In an era that is now being dominated by bullpens, the Cardinals have not had an established effective closer since Trevor Rosenthal was released. As a result, the Cardinals came into the 2018 season with the worst projected bullpen in baseball that was only saved later on by fresh young arms with a point to prove.
Andrew Miller was a great signing, but he’s only been effective as a full-time closer in one year (2015). Jordan Hicks is an incredible talent but pitching him closer innings in this tight of a division may hurt his arm. Kimbrel has clearly been successful in the National League, and he would be a great mentor to Jordan Hicks in a year where the Cardinals are clearly going for it all.
Contract: 1 year, $15 million with a plethora of vesting options for a second year
CK Honorable Mentions
Washington Nationals: I’ve seen this recently on a few publications due to their bullpen’s early struggles. I personally do not buy this since they have already spent loads of cash this offseason and have undeniable talent they can use in the latter innings.
Philadelphia Phillies: I think the NL East would be a nice spot for Kimbrel to return to. However, David Robertson is a proven closer, so they would need to wait until at least June in order to decide in additional help is needed.
Colorado Rockies: While the rotation is effective, it is still young. Pushing the inconsistent Wade Davis into a set-up role would be a way to replace the hole left by Adam Ottavino this offseason, and his curveball is thrown hard enough to not be affected by the mile-high air.
San Diego Padres: YOU NEED PITCHING. YOU HAVE MONEY. SPEND IT!!!!
Thanks for reading!