Still Free: LHP Dallas Keuchel
Image courtesy of © Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsShould the Twins be interested in signing free agent lefty Dallas Keuchel? What factors should go into that decision?
What Should The Front Office Like
When healthy, innings pitched:
Three times in the last five years, Keuchel has made at least 29 starts and threw at least 200 innings.
Keuchel has pitched in seven major-league seasons. He has typically not hurt himself by issuing walks. In his past six seasons, he has walked no more than 3.0 batters per nine innings and averaged just 2.5 walks per nine innings.
2015 Cy Young
In 2015, Keuchel went 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA. He received 22 of the 30 first-place votes for AL Cy Young Award. He also pitched in a career-high 232 innings.
Four Gold Gloves
Keuchel also fields his position well. He has been awarded the American League Gold Glove in four of the last five seasons. Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson are both very good athletes who field their position well.
What Should Scare The Front Office
Keuchel turned 31 years old on January 1st. On its own, that is not a big deal. However, it would certainly be a deterrent to a four or five year deal.
Lack of Velocity
Keuchel rarely touches 90 mph with his fastball. But as you can see from the chart below, it’s not like his velocity has diminished. He has never thrown hard.
I have already and will again write the all-important phrase “if healthy.” That’s obviously an unknown and can’t be predicted with exact science (yet?). But Keuchel has had a variety of issues physically. He acknowledged after the 2016 season that he fought shoulder pain the whole year. He had a minor foot injury that cost him some time. He also had a neck injury.
Draft Pick Compensation
The Astros made a Qualifying Offer to Keuchel, so the team that signs him will have to give up a draft pick.
What Signing Him Would Do For the Twins
There is little question that, assuming Keuchel is healthy, he would improve the Twins rotation. Essentially Keuchel would take a spot in the Twins rotation and either Martin Perez or Michael Pineda would be moved to the bullpen.
That’s not to say that Keuchel would fit in as the Twins fifth starter. But I also think it’s important to realize that he is not an ace, by any means. He would be a 2/3 in the Twins rotation. His 2018 numbers were very similar to those of Kyle Gibson. Again, assuming health, that would give the Twins a pretty solid 1-2-3 in their rotation for a potential playoff rotation with Odorizzi, Pineda and Perez (and all that minor league depth) getting their opportunities.
Length of Ideal Contract
To be honest, I would prefer a one-year deal between the Twins and Keuchel. Frankly, the (lack of) velocity scares me. If he loses another tick or two in velocity or if he loses even a little bit of command, his productivity could drop dramatically, and quickly.
However, if he’s going to sign just a one-year deal, why wouldn’t he return to the Astros? Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are their top two starters. They added Wade Miley this offseason via free agency. Top prospect Forrest Whitley is likely close. Lance McCullers will miss the full season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock could return to their rotation as well.
Would you be willing to give Keuchel a second year? I probably would, especially because the Twins don’t have a lot of funds tied up on 2020 yet. But a third year? No, thank you. And a fourth year? Just no.
Why Might Keuchel Have Interest in the Twins
Keuchel has won and experienced a lot of success. He will want to be part of a team that has a chance to compete for a playoff spot. The Twins certainly fit that category. Keuchel certainly has seen the moves that the Twins have made this offseason. They added Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, CJ Cron and Keuchel’s long-time teammate Marwin Gonzalez. The lineup also includes several mid-20s players who he knows have the potential to add even more offense.
Keuchel’s best years came with Jason Castro as his catcher in Houston. He also has to look at the Twins outfield and know that hits turn into outs, especially when Byron Buxton is out there.
Like Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel is represented by Scott Boras. Boras and the Twins front office seem to have a solid working relationship, and top prospects Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff are also Boras clients.
What Would be a Reasonable Offer at this Point
So, with all of that in mind, I think the following offers would be fair:
Ideally, I would prefer a one-year, make-good contract. One year, $16 million.
I would guess that Boras and Keuchel would like to get a second guaranteed season (and probably a third and fourth too), again, similar to the Gonzalez contract. So how about Two Years, $30 million deal?
As you read earlier in the week, LaVelle Neal wrote that the Twins will not sign Keuchel (or Kimbrel) unless something drastic changes. There are enough red flags around Keuchel that the Twins (and clearly most MLB teams) have shied away. Personally, I agree with that assessment.
For a guy who rarely touches 90 mph with his fastball, Dallas Keuchel has put together a really strong free agent resume with his work in Houston the past six seasons. However, some of his peripheral numbers, understandably, could give teams reason for pause. Clearly they have.
The Twins are currently about $12 million below where they started the 2018 season, so the proposed deals above would put them just over those numbers.
The front office has to ask themselves which they prefer:
- A 31 year old lefty with no velocity but a great track record of success.
- A 27 year old lefty who is hitting 95-97 mph this spring but whose numbers have never matched his stuff.
What makes sense to you?
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