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March 04, 2019

MLB Rumors: NL East teams continue arms race as Braves, Nationals target Keuchel, Kimbrel

The Phillies remain the center of the baseball world, even after their four month long Bryce Harper pursuit ended.

With expectations inching ever higher for Philly to compete in 2019, the team is likely not making another big splash before the regular season begins in three weeks.

Barring something unexpected, the two remaining top free agents will play elsewhere next season. But there's been an arms race in the NL East all winter long, and Phillies fans should be prepared to see a whole lot of Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel next season, even if they aren't in red pinstripes.

Dallas Keuchel

The Athletic's Jeff Schultz wrote shortly after the Harper signing that the Braves — who had the fourth best starting pitching ERA in the league last season — should take an interest in Keuchel, a 31-year-old former Cy Young award winner.

It’s not unreasonable to suggest that experience, another year of growth and the additions of Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann will make the 2019 team even better. 
But the signing of Keuchel or any acquisition of a top-two starter via trade would make everybody feel more comfortable. [The Athletic]

The cries for Keuchel to the Braves seem to be everywhere, prompted both by the Phillies' loaded offense and some injuries in spring training.

Craig Kimbrel

It shouldn't come as a surprise that another of the Phillies' rivals is targeting pitching help, with the Nationals the subject of numerous rumors connecting them to ace closer Craig Kimbrel.

Yes, the Phillies are interested (why wouldn't they be?) but as reported before, they're likely only interested in short term. Kimbrel is 30, and coming off of an incredible season for a reliever: 5-1, 2.74 ERA with 42 saves. 

The Nationals may be in deep talks if Keith Law's report from over the weekend is true:

The main issue for Washington is the money. They don't have a ton of clearance under the $206 million luxury tax threshold, and inking Kimbrel would likely put them slightly over it and make that part of their payroll taxable by the league.

If the Nats are willing to exceed that number, it will be a clear sign that the Phillies are a real longterm threat in the NL East, and that teams are willing to open their bank to fight for what could be the toughest division crown to win in all of baseball.

Harper is off the board, but the offseason is still no where near over.

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