Free agent Craig Kimbrel is moving “closer” to a decision on where he will sign his next contract, one source said Monday, but the situation remains sufficiently fluid that there is no clear favorite to sign the seven-time All-Star closer.
The Brewers are among the teams that have spoken with Kimbrel’s agent, David Meter, in recent weeks, but that interest comes with a qualifier: Milwaukee's need for Kimbrel is tied to the performance and durability of reliever Jeremy Jeffress, who has yet to pitch in the Majors this season because of weakness in his right (throwing) shoulder.
Jeffress, 31, has made four Minor League rehabilitation appearances for Triple-A San Antonio. He surrendered at least one run in each of them. If that trend continues once Jeffress returns to the active roster Tuesday, Brewers general manager David Stearns is likely to give Kimbrel more serious consideration.
MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported over the weekend that Kimbrel’s current asking price is in the range of Wade Davis’ three-year, $52 million contract with the Rockies and Zack Britton’s three-year, $39 million deal with the Yankees. That represents a decrease from Kimbrel’s reported stance at the outset of the offseason.
The Brewers already have lost late-inning reliever Corey Knebel for the season due to Tommy John surgery. If Jeffress can’t return to the All-Star form he displayed last year, when he maintained a 1.29 ERA over 73 games, the Brewers will look to add a significant reliever via free agency or trade to lessen their reliance on their other All-Star reliever, Josh Hader.
The Brewers also have stayed in contact with Scott Boras, who represents former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, the other major pitcher still available via free agency. Even though he’s a starting pitcher, Keuchel would enable the Brewers to improve their bullpen, because his arrival would nudge one young starter -- Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta or Corbin Burnes -- into a relief role.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell has said the team isn’t comfortable with Woodruff, Peralta and Burnes all remaining in the Major League rotation for the entire season, because of workload limitations. The effect of pitching through the National League Championship Series last year is perhaps evident in the trio’s performance so far this season: Woodruff has a 6.00 ERA. Peralta’s is 7.13. Burnes’ is 10.05.
The Brewers have one notable advantage in pursuing Keuchel or Kimbrel: They would lose only their fourth-highest pick in the 2019 MLB Draft if they sign either one; they surrendered their third-highest pick when they signed Yasmani Grandal.
Meanwhile, the Braves continue to monitor the markets for Keuchel and Kimbrel but remain concerned about their asking prices and the impact of losing a Draft pick, in light of limitations on the club’s international spending. The Braves aren’t allowed to sign an international player to more than a $10,000 signing bonus during the 2019-20 signing period, under penalties imposed by Major League Baseball following a 2017 investigation into infractions with international and domestic player procurement. However, it’s worth noting that the Braves’ need for pitching is greater now than on Opening Day, with starter Sean Newcomb having been demoted to the Minors and reliever Arodys Vizcaino on the injured list with a shoulder ailment.
The Padres are interested in Keuchel, among other veteran starting pitchers, but general manager A.J. Preller indicated to AJ Cassavell of MLB.com on Monday that a significant addition isn’t likely to occur until after the MLB Draft in June. The Padres are the only team in the Majors this year to utilize four starting pitchers who are 23 or younger: Opening Day starter Eric Lauer, 23; Chris Paddack, 23; Nick Margevicius, 22; and Pedro Avila, 22.