After remaining unsigned until after the MLB Draft in June, Dallas Keuchel is hoping for a better result as he tests the free-agent market again.
Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding Keuchel, who will turn 32 years old in January.
Padres looking at Keuchel among top remaining pitchers
Dec. 13: The Padres are among teams looking at Keuchel, according to a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. There were indications that the Padres might not be in on the bigger free agents, Heyman notes, but they are attempting to be competitive in 2020. They steered clear of the two successive record-breaking deals for pitchers given to Stephen Strasburg and then Gerrit Cole, but the $100 million figure hasn’t even been thrown around yet regarding Keuchel, who signed in-season last year and only made 19 regular-season starts.
*Keuchel a fit for pitching-hungry Halos? *
_Dec. 13_: At this week’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, the Angels came up short in the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes but snagged Anthony Rendon to back up Mike Trout in their lineup. That was a big step, but there is no question the club still needs rotation help.
With Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Zack Wheeler off the board, is Dallas Keuchel the answer?
MLB.com’s Richard Justice, appearing on MLB Network’s “Hot Stove” on Friday morning, believes that the left-hander will at least be an answer for the club. While stating that the Angels still need multiple starting pitchers, Justice predicted, “I think Dallas Keuchel is gonna end up in Anaheim.”
As Justice pointed out, he is far from the only option. Fellow lefties Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu are free agents, while Boston’s David Price and Detroit’s Matthew Boyd are potential trade targets. Multiple reports have indicated that the Angels also have held trade discussions with Cleveland for righty Corey Kluber.
But with Rendon in the mix, playing next to defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons, a ground ball specialist such as Keuchel could be even more appealing. The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner ranks second in the Majors in ground ball rate going back to that season while averaging 173 innings per year.
*A shorter winter in the cards for Keuchel *
_Dec. 13_: A year ago, Keuchel waited, waited and waited some more, languishing on the open market until the Draft arrived, freeing interested teams from losing a pick in exchange for bringing him onboard. Keuchel finally inked a one-year deal with the Braves on June 7.
The left-hander’s outlook this time around is considerably rosier, even if he has not been one of the first starting pitchers to land a new deal. But Keuchel makes MLB.com executive reporter Mark Feinsand’s list of the major free agents likely to sign next.
“It still might take weeks, but after signing last June following a frustrating winter, Keuchel should have a deal long before Spring Training starts in February,” Feinsand concludes.
Keuchel is a client of Scott Boras, who has been extremely busy of late negotiating monster deals for Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon. Now that those are done, and with Zack Wheeler and Cole Hamels also off the board, Keuchel is in the next group of pitchers available, along with Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Feinsand posits that K
Ryu, Keuchel could be Angels’ fallback options
Dec. 6: The Angels are among the clubs that have met with Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg already, along with the Yankees and the Dodgers. And given the state of the Angels’ rotation, the club arguably has a greater need to sign one of the free-agent aces than the Yankees or Dodgers.
Currently, the Angels’ starting staff consists of Andrew Heaney, Shohei Ohtani, the newly acquired Dylan Bundy and a bunch of question marks.
If the team strikes out on both Cole and Strasburg, it’s interesting to wonder where general manager Billy Eppler would turn next. In an article for ESPN+ (subscription required), Buster Olney suggests that the Angels would consider Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu and/or Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner, though, may be off the market by then, which means the Angels’ best options could be Ryu and Keuchel.
What does Hamels signing mean for Keuchel?
Dec. 4: Free-agent starting pitchers are starting to come off the market. The big news Wednesday was Zack Wheeler agreeing to a $118 million deal with the Phillies. But it was the first starter to sign that might have the bigger impact on Keuchel’s future.
That would be fellow veteran left-hander Cole Hamels, who inked a one-year, $18 million contract with the Braves — Keuchel’s 2019 team.
MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand writes how Hamels’ deal might mean that Keuchel’s time in Atlanta is over. But there should be other suitors, especially now that Keuchel doesn’t have the Draft pick compensation tied to him that he did last offseason, when he declined a qualifying offer from the Astros.
Feinsand suggests that teams like the Blue Jays, White Sox, Twins and Reds could be among those that pursue Keuchel, even if the Braves don’t. More >
Morosi: Blue Jays eyeing Keuchel and Ryu
Dec. 3: The Blue Jays have a nice young core of promising position players, headlined by the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, among others. If they want to get back to contending in the competitive AL East in the near future, however, it’s going to take an upgrade to the rotation.
That’s where Keuchel and fellow lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu come in.
Both pitchers are “possibilities for the Blue Jays,” MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi said in a Tuesday appearance on MLB Network’s Hot Stove show. “Because of where the overall starting pitching supply is going to be next winter, it makes a lot of sense for the Blue Jays to court both Ryu and Keuchel now. And I’m told both are on their list.”
In other words, this year’s crop of free-agent arms is shaping up to be deeper and more impactful than next offseason’s batch. It might behoove the Blue Jays to act now, even if they aren’t clearly ready to contend yet.
Morosi added that Toronto could benefit from bringing in a veteran starter or two to help shepherd the club’s young arms — like Sean Reid-Foley and Trent Thornton, as well as prospects Nate Pearson, Anthony Kay and T.J. Zeuch — as they transition to the big leagues.
MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal also had the Blue Jays on his list of Zack Wheeler suitors in a story for The Athletic (subscription required).
Latest on Phillies, Blue Jays
Dec 3rd, 2019 · 7:16
Latest on Phillies, Blue Jays
Keuchel may be in Cubs’ wheelhouse
Nov. 30: The Cubs don’t appear to be involving themselves in the sweepstakes for Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, writes The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney, nor do they seem poised to make a run at Zack Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu or Madison Bumgarner. But, Mooney writes, the Cubs know they need to add starting pitching, and a pitcher like Keuchel may be exactly the type they’re going for. He notes that Keuchel is a former American League Cy Young Award winner.
“It depends on moving parts,” Mooney quotes Theo Epstein as saying. “It’s an area in free agency that’s fairly robust this year — the depth of starting pitching options — maybe even more so than the relief market. It’s usually the other way around, so I think you have to be open-minded.”
Among ‘second-tier’ free agent starters, where does Keuchel rank?
Nov. 27: We all know which pitchers comprise the top echelon of starters on the free-agent market — your Coles and Strasburgs. But what about “second-tier” guys? In a survey conducted by ESPN, 15 executives and other baseball insiders were asked which of the following starters they would want in their rotation: Keuchel, Madison Bumgarner or Zack Wheeler. Wheeler got eight votes, Bumgarner got four and Keuchel got two (there was a three-way tie from one voter).
Keuchel, who turns 32 on New Year’s Day, won the American League Cy Young Award back in 2015 with the Astros, and is on the free-agent market for the second consecutive year after signing with the Braves last June and posting a 3.75 ERA (121 ERA+) over 19 starts for the National League East champions.
Keuchel among top ‘repeat’ free agents
Nov. 20: Going through free agency two years in a row isn’t any player’s ideal situation, but it’s one Keuchel faces. The good news for the lefty? He’s no longer tied to Draft-pick compensation like he was when he received — and declined — the one-year qualifying offer from the Astros a year ago.
“Given that he came in cold in mid-June, Keuchel’s results with Atlanta were encouraging — a 3.75 ERA, 121 ERA+ and 60.1% ground-ball rate,” MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince wrote in dubbing Keuchel one of this offseason’s top “repeat” free agents. “He’ll be 32 for the 2020 season, and while he might not get the kind of deal he once hoped, there should be a number of suitors.”
Indeed, while Keuchel’s repertoire and approach as a lower-velocity, pitch-to-contact, ground-ball-inducing pitcher differ from the sport’s overall trend toward higher velo and more strikeouts, there’s something to be said for the veteran’s effectiveness and durability.
Keuchel sports a 3.33 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP dating back to his breakout 2014, and he’s thrown 1,063 innings over that span. That total puts Keuchel in the top 20 since that season — even when factoring in that he missed almost the first three months of 2019 while lingering in free agency until after the MLB Draft.
Teams in need of quality innings and rotation depth, like the Angels, Phillies, A’s, Brewers and Rangers, would appear to be good fits for Keuchel’s profile.
A key to Keuchel’s second run at free agency is …
Nov. 12: Last offseason did not go as Keuchel planned. After declining the qualifying offer from the Astros, the veteran lefty’s first foray into free agency lasted through the fall, beyond the winter and all the way into the spring and the start of the regular season before he wound up signing in early June.
Keuchel ultimately got $13 million from the Braves, who by then did not have to endure the loss of a Draft pick (or the accompanying Draft signing bonus pool money from their allotment) because the 2019 MLB Draft already was underway.
“As more time went on [as his free agency lingered into the 2019 season], it became more just about winning,” Keuchel said in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM about why he signed with Atlanta, who went on to capture a second straight NL East title.
The 31-year-old, however, also acknowledged he had another motivation for turning down multiyear offers with non-contending clubs and instead taking a prorated one-year deal with the Braves: “I wanted to shed that Draft-pick compensation.”
That’s because once a player receives a qualifying offer, he no longer is eligible to be extended a QO again. While the qualifying offer often does not impact top-tier free agents, it can drag down the field of suitors for others like Keuchel. That won’t be the case this winter for the eight-year big leaguer, so he should find it easier to secure a multiyear deal even if he’s now a year older.
As for what other factors Keuchel is weighing, the Oklahoma native who spent his first seven seasons in Texas said geography is something he will consider.
Keuchel on being a free agent
Nov 13rd, 2019 · 1:09
Keuchel on being a free agent
Here are some predictions for Keuchel’s second try at free agency
Nov. 8: Keuchel’s first run at first agency a year ago lasted way longer than anyone expected, and when all was said and done, he ended up with a one-year deal for $13 million with the Braves in June.
Nineteen solid starts (121 ERA+) later, Keuchel is back on the market. This time, he doesn’t have to worry about his value being hindered by the Draft-pick compensation rules tied to the qualifying offer. With no QO and a better grasp of the market, Keuchel has a good chance of landing a multiyear contract this offseason.
The Athletic’s (subscription required) Jim Bowden and MLB Trade Rumors both predict Keuchel will sign for three years. Bowden puts Keuchel at $42 million, while MLBTR projects he’ll earn $39 million.
One team that could potentially target the left-hander is the Phillies, who are expected to upgrade their rotation this offseason. The club was consistently linked to Keuchel last offseason, but ultimately didn’t show much interest. The QO may have been a major reason why.
In a radio appearance on 94 WIP in Philadelphia on Thursday, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak stressed the importance of not losing Draft picks after the team did so when it signed three players (Carlos Santana, Jake Arrieta, Bryce Harper) who rejected a QO in the past two offseasons.
Five of the top starters on the market this year — Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner and Jake Odorizzi — received a QO, which means the Phils could be more likely to look in Keuchel’s direction.
Keuchel’s defense key in free agency
Nov. 7: Keuchel has been a soft-contact, ground-ball pitcher, which has made the former AL Cy Young Award winner successful for several years. But as Mark Simon writes for The Athletic, the left-hander’s defense has also been a strong suit, one that could add appeal in free agency.
“Keuchel will be impactful for two reasons,” Simon writes. “One is that he and Zack Greinke are arguably the two best fielding pitchers in baseball. Despite sitting out about 40 percent of the season, Keuchel saved five runs with his defense, one shy of the MLB lead. Over the last six seasons, he’s saved 47 runs, the most of any pitcher.”
Keuchel lands among FanGraphs’ Top 20 free agents
Nov. 4: FanGraphs’ annual Top 50 free agents list was published Monday, and Keuchel came in at No. 12 on their big board rankings.
FanGraphs writer Kiley McDaniel estimates a three-year, $45 million deal for Keuchel this offseason, while the site’s readership submitted a median crowdsource estimate of four years and $70.4 million. That’s one of the wider gaps between McDaniel and the readership of any of the top-tier free agents on the list, but either projection is a marked improvement from Keuchel’s last experience on the market, when he had to wait until after the MLB Draft in June to sign with the Braves because of the qualifying offer that was attached to him.
Keuchel is ineligible to receive the QO this time around, and as fellow FanGraphs writer Brendan Gawlowski notes, the southpaw’s run-prevention numbers in 2019 closely mirrored those he posted in ’18, while his strikeout and ground-ball ratios improved.