Monday's MLB Draft may help unlock the markets for free agents Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel. Despite the fact that contending teams are always on the lookout for pitching and despite the past successes of the duo in question, the former Cy Young winner Keuchel and the All-Star closer Kimbrel remain unsigned.
So what do the free-agent fates of two veterans in their thirties have to do with the MLB Draft? It's all about the draft-pick compensation system.
Keuchel and Kimbrel each received qualifying offers (QO) last offseason. They each turned down the one-year contract in favor of hitting the market. However, that they were tendered QOs means that their former teams -- the Red Sox in Kimbrel's case and the Astros Keuchel's -- were entitled to draft-pick compensation. That comes in two forms. First, the Red Sox and Astros would receive compensatory picks if those QO-receiving free agents signed elsewhere. Second, the teams that signed Keuchel and Kimbrel would be forced to forfeit picks, among other penalties. Via MLB.com, here's how those penalties are scaled:
However, as of Monday, June 3 -- i.e., draft day -- none of that applies to qualifying-offer free agents from last offseason. That means the teams that eventually sign Keuchel and Kimbrel will do so without penalty. Likewise, the Red Sox and Astros will not receive picks once the duo signs.
Obviously, the primary impediment to a deal with either hurler is money, but the loss of draft assets is absolutely baked into each team's calculus when it comes to deciding which free agents to target and how much to offer them. No team is going to pass on a free agent solely because of draft considerations, but the compensation system does create a potential barrier. For Keuchel and Kimbrel, that barrier is now gone.
As for specifics, the Cubs, Dodgers, Braves, Phillies, Rays Twins, and incumbent Red Sox have been linked to Kimbrel in recent days. Keuchel, meantime, is reportedly of at least some interest to the Cardinals, Yankees, Padres, Rays, Brewers, Twins, and Phillies.