As my wife and I were looking through clothes Friday at Academy Sports and Outdoors, I spotted an Arkansas Razorbacks player shirt with former Razorbacks pitcher Dallas Keuchel’s name and number on the back.
That reminded me that he nor Craig Kimbrel still haven’t signed with a team just yet as MLB’s First-Year Player Draft approaches.
This is still odd, but as the draft approaches, there is no need to sign these guys until the draft approaches.
That is because there are penalties for teams that are wishing to use Keuchel or Kimbrel’s services.
In fact, as preparation for writing this column, I went to the strictly baseball website Fangraphs.com and the first article the website had was about the implications toward the draft of signing either free agent.
But, the initial reason I went to see why neither of these men had signed with a team was to see how last season’s stats compare as well as to see if either were relying too heavily on a certain pitch than what they had in the past or if their velocity had decreased.
And, what I found was their numbers were in line with their career numbers.
Keuchel’s fastball has sat at or around 89 miles per hour for his seven-year career.
He did use a cutter more than he did last year, which drops his fastball usage from the previous year.
Otherwise, his slider and changeup usage is in line with last year’s totals.
Certainly, Keuchel wasn’t as good last year as he was in his Cy Young season in 2015 and some other stats have fallen slightly, such as his strikeout percentage and the different kind of contact he is giving up.
But, he has won a gold glove in four of the past five seasons.
He may not be an ace, but he would likely still fit in nicely in as some team’s No. 2 or No. 3 starter.
As for Kimbrel, there were many rumors about how he wasn’t at a dominant level that he had previously.
In 2017, Kimbrel had a great season, holding a 1.43 ERA to go along with 35 saves with a high strikeout rate.
In 2018, his numbers dipped, but they closely resemble his 2016 numbers with a similar strikeout rate, walk rate and a better ERA.
He also had a similar line drive, ground ball and fly ball percentage rates to 2016.
He did work a few more cutters in than fastballs compared to the rest of his career in 2018.
His velocity is also right along with career numbers.
But, regardless of all of that, he is still one of the better closers in the game, if not the best, so one has to wonder why no team wanted to take a chance on him during the offseason, or even during spring training.
There are teams that likely need both guys. In fact, I know the Cubs have had trouble with the back end of their bullpen at times.
If money is all it takes to sign Kimbrel, then I would rather do that than give up prospects in an already thin farm system that the Cubs have.
And, there are certainly needs for Keuchel around the league.
Several teams need a strong arm in their rotation.
So, you still have to ask, “why are these guys not signed?”
A lot of it has to do with the draft picks teams have to give up in order to sign these two guys.
The current collective bargaining agreement is better about having to give up draft picks, but the draft picks that have to be given up, including some teams having to give up international free agent money, it’s hard for those teams to want to surrender those things.
Especially when teams can wait after the draft and pick those guys up without having to surrender draft picks or more money.
However, on Saturday, I saw that the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees are looking at signing Keuchel, so the market for both players should be moving.
But, this does point to the trouble that has been caused in the free agent market that left two high-profile players in Manny Machado and Bryce Harper unsigned throughout much of the winter and even into spring training.