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Criticisms Of Craig Kimbrel, Dallas Keuchel Signings Miss The Mark

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Craig Kimbrel (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Based on social media, you’d think the Cubs and Braves signed players who have no business being in the major leagues.

It would almost be funny, the reaction to the news of the Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel signings, if it wasn’t such a sad reflection of the pervasive negativity in our discourse on social media today.

The Cubs and Braves signed players better than the ones they currently have. They made their teams better, and they did so without sacrificing draft picks or trading away prospects who could come back to haunt them.

That’s a win, period.

Start with Kimbrel. Yes, he’s no longer the player who had 1.43 ERA over five seasons and set the major league record for strikeouts per nine innings. And yes, the most recent image we have of him is struggling to find the plate in the World Series.

And still, his 2.47 ERA the last four years—his “decline” years—is still better than anyone the Cubs have in their bullpen right now, and they don’t have many power arms coming from their 29th-ranked farm system to help, either.

The Cubs have blown 10 of 25 save chances this year, a save percentage of 60 percent that ranks 22nd in MLB. The solutions were not in-house.

The Cubs had the opportunity to bring in a relief pitcher better than anyone they have, and they did so without sacrificing any of their most valuable assets—players. All it cost them was money, of which the franchise has plenty.

Making your team better without sacrificing talent? That’s called a smart move. That’s called good management.

As for the Braves, their starters have a 4.39 ERA, 17th among major league teams. Keuchel’s ERA last year was 3.74. His ERA over the last three seasons is 3.77.

For those less inclined toward ERA, Keuchel’s 110 ERA+ last year and 107 ERA+ over the last three years are also better than the Braves’ 103 ERA+ as a team this year. And for those who prefer FIP? Keuchel’s 3.69 FIP last year and 3.78 FIP over the last three years would both rank second among Braves starters right now, trailing only Mike Soroka.

That’s just three different ways to say Keuchel is better than almost anyone the Braves have put on the mound this year.

The organization acquired someone better than what they had. They did it without sacrificing any top prospects who could impact their future outlook. And they did it without forfeiting a draft pick they desperately needed in light of the international signing punishments that eviscerated the talent pool at the lower levels of their system.

The Braves made their team better—reportedly on a low-risk, one-year deal—without sacrificing any of their greatest assets.

That, too, is a win.

There is always the possibility the signings don’t work out. The history of players signing once the season starts after a long layoff is not promising, and pitchers who have moved backward as they enter their 30s are certainly not a safe bet by any means.

But even at a little bit of a decline, Kimbrel and Keuchel are still better pitchers than the position groups they are joining. They make the Cubs and Braves better, and they do so at little cost to the organizations.

That is the entire point of all of this: Find players who can help you win games in the majors and acquire them at a cost that doesn’t damage your future.

The Cubs and Braves did just that. The thought process was sound. The cost was reasonable. And the upgrades Kimbrel and Keuchel provide are clear for all to see.

The signings have a good chance to make their teams better. That, above all else, is what matters.

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