Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos “made it clear” Sunday that the Braves have legitimate interest in free-agent pitchers Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel, according to Jim Bowden of SiriusXM. Unsurprisingly, though, the Braves don’t seem inclined to sign Kimbrel or Keuchel until the June 3 draft, at which point a team would not have to surrender a pick for either of the two qualifying offer recipients.
Given their outstanding track records in the majors, Kimbrel and Keuchel entered free agency in November as two of the highest-ranked players available. High-paying, long-term contracts looked likely for both players at the time, but seven months later, they remain without teams. That probably won’t be the case for much longer considering the soon-to-expire draft pick ramifications, however.
For the Braves, the interest in Kimbrel is particularly notable. The right-hander was a 2008 draftee of the Braves, who took him in the third round and then saw him develop into one of the best picks in franchise history. Now one of the greatest relievers ever, Kimbrel spent 2010-14 with Atlanta, for which he pitched to a near-spotless 1.43 ERA/1.52 FIP with 14.82 K/9 against 3.36 BB/9 and piled up 186 saves over 289 innings. The Braves then ended their relationship with Kimbrel when they traded him to the Padres in April 2015. Kimbrel, now 31, moved on to the Red Sox via trade in 2016 and remained a formidable late-game force with the club through 2018, though he wasn’t as effective last season after an otherworldly showing in 2017.