Free of draft penalties, Craig Kimbrel's market picks up

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com

Craig Kimbrel has been unemployed since last November, but it's hard to imagine the seven-time All-Star closer will be jobless for much longer.

Kimbrel is no longer attached to draft pick compensation, a major obstacle he has faced in his pursuit of a long-term contract. Until today, teams that signed Kimbrel would have had to surrender a top pick to bring the closer in because he rejected the one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Red Sox in November.

But when the clock struck 12:01 this morning, the first day of the 2019 MLB Draft, Kimbrel became untethered from draft-related penalties. Now it seems like teams are ready to sign the former Red Sox closer.

According to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Minnesota Twins have expressed interest in both Kimbrel and former Cy Young award-winner Dallas Keuchel, who also saw his free agent market dry up in part due to the threat of a draft pick forfeiture.

"It’s not a matter of the Twins choosing between lefthander Dallas Keuchel and closer Craig Kimbrel. At least for now. That’s because the Twins are interested in signing both, moves that would fortify a club with baseball’s best record," Neal wrote.

If the Twins did have to make a choice between the two, Neal reported they would have more interest in Kimbrel.

Kimbrel, who was said to be looking for a record-breaking contract of six-years and more than $100 million, is now open to a three-year deal, according to Neal.

Neal added that the Rays, Braves, and Cubs could also look to sign Kimbrel.

According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Phillies and "many more" teams are also in on Kimbrel, who could find a team sooner rather than later.

Free agency 2.0 is underway.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub's own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.