In less than five days, the still unsigned Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel will no longer be attached to draft pick compensation. The draft pick considerations go away at 12:01 a.m. ET on Monday, June 3, the first day of the 2019 MLB amateur draft.
Not surprisingly -- and certainly not coincidentally -- teams have ramped up their scouting coverage of Keuchel these last few days. According to Dan Martin of the New York Post, several teams scouted Keuchel's most recent simulated game over the weekend. From Martin:
The Yankees hope to get some additions to their banged-up rotation soon and still have their eyes on free agent Dallas Keuchel. They were on hand when he threw a simulated game in front of scouts from a handful of teams in Newport Beach, Calif., on Sunday, according to a source.
Erik Boland of Newsday adds the Yankees had one of their "top talent evaluators" on hand to scout Keuchel, which indicates more than due diligence. . Keuchel has been throwing simulated games every fifth day or so at the headquarters of his agent, Scott Boras.
Once draft-pick compensation goes away next week, two questions remain. One, how long until Keuchel is game ready? He is throwing simulated games, so his pitch count is built up, and that's half the battle. Keuchel will likely need a minor-league tuneup start or three to get game ready, however. Facing MLB hitters is way different than facing college kids and minor leaguers in low intensity simulated games.
And two, what will it take to sign him? While I'm sure Keuchel would jump at a multiyear contract should one be offered, at this point it seems likely he'll sign a one-year contract and re-enter the free-agent market after the season, when he is free from draft-pick compensation completely. Recent reports indicate Keuchel is increasingly open to a one-year deal.
As reported during the winter: Initial ask to teams for Dallas Keuchel was 6 or 7 years, $25m to $30m annually. In spring HOU offered choice: 1 year at $15m or 2/$24m. More recently, his camp said to be open to 1-year deal, for prorated annual $ at qualifying offer range. ($18m)— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 28, 2019
Keuchel (and Kimbrel) rejected the one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer in November. Assuming Keuchel signs next Monday, the first day he is free from draft-pick compensation (it's unlikely he signs that quickly, but humor me for a second), a pro-rated $18 million contract would put $11.5 million in his pocket this year. That's not bad. It's not anywhere close to what Keuchel's production is worth, but, all things considered, it's a nice payday.
The list of contending teams in need of rotation help -- while Keuchel's overall situation stinks, he'll at least be able to pick his team and go somewhere that gives him a chance to win another World Series ring -- is not short. In addition to the Yankees, the Astros, Braves, Brewers, Mets, Phillies, Rays, and Twins could all use another veteran starter. Maybe even the Red Sox as well, depending on David Price's and Nathan Eovaldi's health.
For now, Keuchel will continue throwing his simulated games and teams will continue to keep an eye on him as they wait for the draft-pick compensation to go away. Once that happens, a deal could come together fairly quickly. Getting Keuchel for nothing but cash in early June is more appealing than trading prospects for, say, Madison Bumgarner or Mike Minor in late July.