If I told you that one month into the season one of the best closers in the game, who had over 40 saves last season, was still a free agent, you would think I was crazy. Now if I said that the 2015 AL Cy Young winner, and a pitcher who started 34 games last year and posted a 3.74 ERA, was also unsigned, you would try to lock me up in a sanatorium. But that is the situation we find ourselves in as Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel both are sitting at home a month into the season.
While Kimbrel has been steadfast about wanting to sign a long-term deal, Keuchel has said that he would be willing to take a one-year deal and prove himself. Still, they both are unsigned. One of the reasons that both remain unsigned is because both of them received a one-year qualifying offer from their previous teams. Due to this, if they are signed by a club before June 3 then the team that signs them will lose a draft pick. What draft pick will be lost depends on the team, however, it can’t be that teams highest pick. Teams may be waiting till after that June 3 deadline to sign Kimbrel and Keuchel.
This rule, and other free agency problems are some of the reasons that the league seems to be heading for a strike when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2021. While we still have some time till that happens, the players have the right to strike. Kimbrel and Keuchel are just the tip of the iceberg. MLB free agency has been bad for players over the past few seasons, with many having to wait till right before spring training to sign one-year contracts. We also saw this past offseason one of the worst contract extensions in MLB history.
Ozzie Albies is one of the games bright young starts. The 22-year-old, who had a 3.8 WAR last season before signing the extension, is one of the reasons the Atlanta Braves look to be at the top of the NL for years to come. Despite that, Albies singed a seven-year extension worth $35 million guaranteed and has two team options with a $4 million buyout. In total, Albies extension could be worth $45 million, but it also has locked him to the Braves for the next nine years. NINE F’N YEARS. While starts like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado are getting deals worth over $300 million.
The situation with Keuchel, Kimbrel, and Albies shows the biggest problem in the MLB free agency, it is too top heavy. While it is great that the top talent is making money, it causes the next tier of players to get screwed in free agency. And with homeruns getting hit at record-breaking speed, many teams would love to have the pitching services of Keuchel and Kimbrel. But due to stupid MLB rules, they probably won’t pitch until after June 3.