What’s the best landing spot for Dallas Keuchel? Astros, Yankees and Braves among good fits for the unsigned lefty
We’re just about two weeks away from the MLB regular season and lefty Dallas Keuchel still remains unsigned. At this point, he’s been a free agent longer than Jake Arrieta was last year, so it’s fair to believe his season would be impacted by the late signing.
Keuchel is a two-time All-Star who won the 2015 AL Cy Young. Presenting him as an All-Star and Cy Young winner still being unsigned doesn’t tell the full picture, however. Keuchel was bad in 2016, bounced back with a very good 2017 — though it was only 23 starts — and was slightly better than average last year at a 3.74 ERA (108 ERA+). He had a 1.31 WHIP and 153 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings (the 6.7 K/9 was down from 7.7 in 2017 and 8.4 in his Cy Young season). He also led the majors with 211 hits allowed.
This, in conjunction with reportedly seeking a five-year deal heading into his age-31 season, is obviously why Keuchel is still on the market.
Still, Keuchel was a late bloomer so there isn’t a ton of wear on his arm with 1,189 1/3 career regular season innings. He does have three 200-inning seasons on his resume, too, so there’s potential here for a big workload with average to decently above average run prevention. Lots of teams could use him.
Here are the eight with the biggest need for Keuchel:
, the future is bright here, but the rotation has lots of unproven question marks. Throw Keuchel at the top of the heap for this season in a mentor/innings-eater role and they take another step toward contention. Keuchel would benefit from the league switch and Petco Park (it’s not extreme anymore, but it’s less homer-friendly than Minute Maid Park).
There’s obviously a familiarity here and their current rotation isn’t overly deep. Josh James is hurt. Lance McCullers is out for the season thanks to Tommy John surgery and prospect Forrest Whitley has only eight Double-A (his highest level) starts under his belt. Right now, after aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley, Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock round out the rotation. Each of the three brings a set of question marks. Keuchel’s unlikely to ever profile close to an ace again, but the Astros only need him as a back-end starter. It would work.
The Indians have a pretty bad offense outside of two players — one of whom is hurt right now — and the bullpen is pretty thin now. They didn’t do much to get better in the offseason and arguably got worse. This means the Twins should be doing everything they can to pounce in this the worst division in baseball. The current rotation: Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda and Martin Perez. Perez is the only lefty and Keuchel would profile as the likely second-best starter of the bunch.
The Mets have the type of rotation that could carry them to the World Series if everything breaks right. We know this because we saw it in 2015. The four arms this time around would be Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz. There’s worrisome injury history on the latter three and the fifth starter is Jason Vargas, who had a 5.77 ERA and 1.41 WHIP last season. He’s 36 years old. I often complain about teams going with half measures, and trying to build a contender but then heading to the season with Vargas in the rotation is absolutely a half-measure. Keuchel would be a huge upgrade.
The Phillies don’t have a dire need, as they go 1-5 with Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin. Pivetta and Eflin definitely have breakout potential, but Velasquez has a 4.60 ERA in 405 1/3 career innings. This rotation is also full of right-handers. Keuchel could slot third between Arrieta and Pivetta. Again, it isn’t dire, but I’d like this team a lot more with Keuchel in the rotation over Velasquez.
The Braves have organizational depth in spades, but how many are actual sure things? Mike Foltynewicz has an elbow injury and will start the season on the injured list. Julio Teheran is a veteran fixture, but he’s been roughly average the past two seasons. Kevin Gausman is probably good, but he’s been inconsistent throughout his career. Sean Newcomb was once a big-time prospect, but he’s now made 49 starts, has a career 4.06 ERA and is headed to his age-26 season. And then you get to the kids: Touki Toussaint, Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Luiz Gohara, Kyle Wright and more. Especially with Folty’s injury being to the elbow, the Braves could certainly use some stability here. Let’s also note that the Nationals, Phillies and Mets all arguably got better.
Ace Luis Severino has rotator cuff inflammation and lefty CC Sabahia is questionable for the start of the season. Behind Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ, the Yankees look to be starting the season with back-end starters like Domingo German and Luis Cessa. Keuchel on a short-term deal — if they can get him — would be a nice stroke. A lefty in Yankee Stadium is always a good plan and — MOST importantly — we’d see what Keuchel looks like without a beard.