All it took was for the MLB Draft to be over with for teams to start their bidding wars over high-priced free agent pitchers Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel. Teams like the Cubs, who landed Kimbrel, and the Braves, who landed Keuchel, avoided draft-pick penalties by not signing either pitcher prior to the draft.
With the penalty of losing any sort of draft-pick compensation out the window, the biggest risk the Cubs and Braves are now facing is seeing if these guys they’ve signed, who haven’t played a major league game since last fall, pan out.
I think any athlete, scout or even fellow critic and follower of sports would tell you that only actual in-game play against real competition can provide accuracy of where a player is at in terms of skill and whether they’re ready to play. (That’s why Spring Training exists.) No simulations will do — which is what both Kimbrel and Keuchel have been doing since both turned down qualifying offers from their former teams. So it will definitely be interesting once both pitchers hit the field and face actual major league hitters.
The Cubs, who have a middle of the road bullpen, obviously had money to play with being a higher market team, signing Kimbrel to a three-year, $43 million deal. But they also play in a heavily competitive NL Central Division where the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals are nipping at their heels. The Braves, on the other hand, who seemingly only have the Philadelphia Phillies to worry about in the NL East, have a much smaller payroll to play with, only offering Keuchel a one-year deal for $13 million.
The Braves are the most surprising out of both teams here, seeing as this is unlike the Braves as of the last couple years where they’ve been gun-shy from making any moves because of past years bad management, or even lacking the dollar amounts to compete with higher market teams for free agents.
Both players will undoubtedly start soon for both clubs, whether that will be from merely getting them well acclimated to their newly respective teams, or from contract clauses that will only allow them to be off the main roster by a certain amount of time.