The Yankees could face some competition in bidding for free agent pitcher Dallas Keuchel from a division rival, but this time it does not appear to be the Boston Red Sox.
Instead, the Tampa Bay Rays have been staying in touch with Keuchel, as well as closer Craig Kimbrel, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
The Yankees have been closely linked to Keuchel, who is expected to sign somewhere by June 3 when teams would no longer be subjected to draft-pick compensation.
The Rays would seem to be an unlikely contender to sign the left-hander, operating under the game's lowest payroll at $60.1 million, but could benefit from the Yankees' willingness to stay under the luxury-tax threshold.
The Bombers are currently at $227.6 million, with the luxury-tax threshold at $246 million, making Keuchel a tight squeeze, especially if they plan to make other moves as well. But with three of their starting pitchers currently on the IL, the Yankees definitely need to add another starter and Keuchel could be the better option than parting with prospects in a trade.
Keuchel, who has said he prefers to play in a big market, may not be the Rays' top target, though. Rosenthal noted that they are more likely to prioritize adding Kimbrel but suggested Keuchel could be an intriguing alternative despite the Rays' starters owning an MLB-best 2.42 ERA (2.54 excluding openers).
The Rays are about to enter a stretch of 47 games in 48 days, which could wear out their pitching, and there is the question of Tyler Glasnow's health.
While the 25-year-old right-hander said he feels "really good" he has yet to throw a baseball since being shut down with a forearm injury and any sort of setback would have to make the Rays consider adding an arm to stabilize the rotation, especially with the tough stretch ahead.
The Yankees are certainly not the only team that can outspend the Rays for either pitcher, but without having to part with a draft pick Tampa Bay remains a team to watch as interest grows for the two free agent pitchers.