Craig Kimbrel rumors: Interest starting to pick up for closer

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As of midnight Monday morning, free agent Craig Kimbrel is no longer attached to draft pick compensation, after previously rejecting the Red Sox' qualifying offer. Now any team may sign the free agent without forfeiting a pick in the draft. 

The former Sox All-Star and fellow free agent Dallas Keuchel are the only players who were extended qualifying offers to wait out the process, ultimately reaching the date (the MLB Draft) when no penalties were part of the equation for interested teams.

In doing so, Kimbrel has missed spring training and the season's first two months. As a result, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that MLB teams are "leery" that he will "be ready before July."

Teams involved in the Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel talks are leery that either will be ready before July. Neither have faced #MLB hitters in eight months, and the landscape is filled with pitchers who struggled after signing late. They are unrestricted free agents at midnight

— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 2, 2019

According to Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway, "The continued free agency of Kimbrel largely comes down to team hesitance to give a closer a long-term contract."

Kimbrel was originally seeking a five- or six-year contract last winter, which would have been a closer-record of $100 million. But, that is no longer the case. He is now reportedly looking for a three-year deal worth somewhere between $15-17 million per year. 

Keuchel was said to be open to a one-year contract worth more than the qualifying offer he rejected from Houston, which was valued at $17.9 million. However, MLB Network’s Job Heyman believes that a one-year offer of that value isn’t being seriously considered. 

According to Heyman, “If that’s all either sought, both would be signed.” 

In 3 hours Keuchel and Kimbrel can sign w/o the signing team losing a draft choice. Rumors of Keuchel seeking just the Qualifying Offer prorated ($11-12M) are unfounded. If that’s all either sought, both would be signed, GMs say. In other words, that’s there but they seek more. https://t.co/3WThmXuDRE

— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 3, 2019  

According to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Phillies have had interest for a while. However, the organization and Kimbrel seek different types of deals.

"As for Kimbrel, the Phils have had interest dating to last season, but not for the big-dollar, multi-year deal he had sought," said Salisbury. “If Kimbrel would take a one-year deal, the Phils might be ready to tango. But it appears he could get a better deal elsewhere, maybe from division rival Atlanta. The Braves are also in on Keuchel. ... David Robertson, Pat Neshek, and Adam Morgan are all due back in the coming weeks.

Even with these potential in-house additions, the Phils are still likely to seek outside bullpen help, maybe not with the signing of Kimbrel, but possibly via a trade for someone like Toronto’s Ken Giles or the White Sox’s Alex Colome."

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos spoke about the organization’s interest in Kimbrel on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM.

"I would think both guys can certainly help our club,” Anthopoulos said of Kimbrel and Keuchel. "I think it’s fair to say, any free agents that are out there, certainly with the draft pick being gone for some of these guys soon, I would think would only help their market. And like anybody else, I’m sure that we will do our work on it."

Alex Anthopoulos knows that the Braves need to address their bullpen.He also knows Craig Kimbrel is still a free agent. #Braves | #ChopOn pic.twitter.com/bdmFBAXBNg

— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) May 26, 2019  

The American League Central-leading Twins are also looking at Kimbrel, in addition to Keuchel, according to La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune. Though the team is interested in both, it is believed to have more interest in Kimbrel. Neal writes that two sources with knowledge of the Twins’ plans confirmed their interest on Sunday.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Cubs have interest in Kimbrel, per major-league sources. The Cubs’ payroll was expected to remain too tight for Kimbrel, but the continued absence of Ben Zobrist may generate financial flexibility. If he remains out, the Cubs may be able to recoup part of his salary, which could potentially open up the ability to afford Kimbrel.

During Kimbrel’s three years in Boston, he saved a total of 108 games and was named a three-time All-Star. In his last season with the Red Sox, the closer was 5-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 42 saves.