With spring training under way, there’s still plenty of talent unsigned


FILE – In this Sept. 26, 2018, file photo, Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper, looks at the baseball field from their dugout before the start of the Nationals last home game of the season against the Miami Marlins in Washington Spring training has started, yet two of baseball’s biggest stars, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, are sitting at home. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

By Justin Kelley

With spring training already in session, there are still several key free agents who have yet to sign with a team. The most notable being former Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.

Harper was selected as the number one overall draft pick in 2010 by the Nationals. It didn’t take long for Harper to work his way up to the MLB roster, making his major league debut in 2012.

Since his debut, Harper has been a perennial all-star, appearing in six all-star games and has won numerous awards including the 2012 National League rookie of the year award and most notably the 2015 National League MVP.

Although Harper has been solid for most his young career, in 2018 his season was a tale of two halves.

Harper struggled in the first half of the season, batting only .214 in his 327 at-bats while striking out 102 times. In the second half, Harper had an amazing output batting .300 over his 223 plate appearances to close out the season.

There are still several teams interested in the 26-year-old superstar despite coming off a lackluster season. Harper and his agent Scott Boras have indicated that teams will have to offer a long term deal worth more than $300 million to sign the former MVP.

According to the Washington Post, in Nov of 2018 the Nationals offered a 10-year contract worth $300 million, but it was declined by Harper. Since then MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that Harper has turned down multiple offers around that figure.

Although it is not clear who the offers were from, Heyman reports the Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants and Nationals are still interested.

Harper isn’t the only free agent to have issues signing a contract for this upcoming season.

Closer Craig Kimbrel and starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel are both looking for long term contracts themselves.

Last year Kimbrel helped the Boston Red Sox claim their fourth World Series title in the last 14 years. In his three years in Boston Kimbrel posted an earned run average of 2.44 while only allowing 92 hits.

The Red Sox offered Kimbrel a qualifying offer of $17.9 million for one year, but Kimbrel declined the offer and hit the free agent market.

Heyman reported Wednesday that if the Phillies were unable to sign Harper the team could consider Kimbrel as their next target. Heyman goes on to say Keuchel would be more likely to sign due to Philadelphia already having relief pitcher David Robertson in the bullpen.

MLB.com reports that the Houston Astros could be interested in the hard-throwing closer as they’ve lost veteran relief pitcher Joe Smith for 6-8 months.

The Astros already have one the best bullpens in the league but adding a player like Kimbrel could elevate them even more.

Kimbrel’s former Red Sox teammate pitcher Chris Sale is surprised the closer remains unsigned.

“It’s crazy to me,” Sale said to Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. “I don’t want to get too far into it with the politics of baseball and all this stuff, but he’s as good as it gets.”

Then there’s the curious case of former Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel.

Keuchel was drafted by the Astros in 2009 and has been a mainstay in their rotation since 2012.

In 2017, Keuchel helped the Astros win the first World Series in franchise history and won the American League Cy Young award in 2016.

Though Keuchel has had success throughout his career it has mostly been in the first half of the season.

In his six years of being an Astro Keuchel has a ERA of 3.37 in the first half of the season, but has struggled after the all-star break. In 575.2 inning pitched Keuchel has an ERA of 4.27 and has 147 less strikeouts.

With all that being said, Keuchel is still being pursued by multiple contenders like his former team; with the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies also pursuing his services

The first spring training game was Thursday as the Oakland A’s took on the Seattle Mariners in Mesa, Ariz and there is still plenty of talent up for grabs.