With free agent closer Craig Kimbrel off the market and headed to join the Chicago Cubs, the rumors for free agent starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel are beginning to heat up. The Atlanta Braves have now emerged as the front-runners to sign Keuchel, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. 

Atlanta’s starters this season have an ERA of 4.33, good for 14th in MLB. Adding Keuchel to the rotation would certainly better the Braves’ chances of repeating as National League East champions. But Atlanta is not the only team linked to the veteran lefty.

In recent days, Keuchel has been most connected with the New York Yankees. However, SNY’s Andy Martino reported earlier Thursday that the Cardinals and Twins have also been connected to Keuchel. Here’s more from Martino:

The Yankees continue to talk with free agent pitcher Dallas Keuchel, but are facing late competition from the St. Louis Cardinals and other teams, according to major league sources.

The Braves and Twins have also been involved, though the exact level of their interest was unclear on Thursday morning.

As SNY reported last week, the Yanks are a front-runner to sign Keuchel. Sources would not say if New York is willing to go more than one year on the 31-year-old former Cy Young Award-winner, whose performance has declined in recent seasons.

As we noted earlier, the 2019 MLB Draft was expected to open up the markets for both Keuchel and Kimbrel. Now, the team that ultimately lands Keuchel will no longer have to forfeit a draft pick.

Keuchel, 31, is 76-63 with a 3.66 ERA in seven major league seasons, all with the Houston Astros. Keuchel’s agent Scott Boras recently said that he could be ready to pitch in a MLB game a week after signing. The former Cy Young winner has thrown seven simulated games (95-104 pitches), every five days, to prepare for an eventual starting role with a team.