The Astros season was getting closer as tens of thousands of fans headed to Minute Maid Park for FanFest last Saturday. The Gerrit Cole trade was announced right after the ending of last year’s FanFest. Many people have pointed to that move as a way to justify Jeff Luhnow’s patience this offseason. After all, he did wait out the Pirates and got the deal he wanted. Now, the Astros are still seeking a starter to fill in Dallas Keuchel‘s shoes.
Keuchel apparently has not gotten any offers for five years, which is why he is still a free agent. The free agent market is going through a metamorphosis: teams are not comfortable dishing out long-term contracts, especially to a 31-year-old starter with a history of injuries. Keuchel is a former Cy Young Award winner coming off a healthy season; however, he’s regressing more towards being a third starter in the rotation, not an ace anymore.
Scott Boras and Keuchel have been seeking a long-term contract before Keuchel gets too much older. The Astros have been willing to bring Keuchel back but were also willing to wait him out. We have discussed this often on Talking Stros this offseason: the Astros would be interested in a reunion if Keuchel’s market didn’t materialize. While there are many suitors interested, Keuchel is still looking for the right fit.
Jon Heyman confirmed that the Astros would still be interested. After all, they are down three starters from last year’s team that won 103 games. There was not much interest in bringing Charlie Morton back, and Lance McCullers had Tommy John surgery. Collin McHugh is set to rejoin the rotation as he is set to test free agency next year. Josh James, Framber Valdez, or Brad Peacock could fight for the rotation this spring. There are several in-house options.
I asked Twitter about Keuchel, and the results were mixed.
The Curious Case of Dallas Keuchel
After winning the 2015 AL Cy Young Award, Keuchel probably circled this offseason and drew $$$ with a smiley face. That was his chance to get his long term deal, but things didn’t go well for him. He was part of a rotation that won the World Series in 2017, but injuries continued to plague him throughout the 2016-17 seasons. Luckily, he bounced back in his walk year in 2018 and pitched 204 2/3 innings.
However, he is still searching for a job. You can blame Boras for wanting to maximize his client’s value. Maybe you can blame the Astros for being cheap, but that is an old argument. What has held Keuchel’s value down is that teams are gun-shy of long-term deals. The dream of getting the five-year deal is out the window; it’s time to move on.
The Astros are waiting patiently
At FanFest, the Astros expressed interest in Keuchel returning. We also know that Boras was in Houston at some point this offseason, possibly meeting about Keuchel. According to rumors, Keuchel may have limited his choices to three teams. The Astros, Braves, and Brewers are finalists, according to Paul Crane.
With some of the core players running out of team control, the Astros don’t want to invest too much money into additional players. This is why the Astros have been looking for short term deals. Crane says the Astros’ offer is a two-year deal with an option for a third year. While I’m not sure of Crane’s sources, this coincides with how the Astros think. The Brewers’ offer is rumored to be for three years.
Keuchel made $13.8 million in 2018, could be seeking near $20 million per year. In order to outbid the other teams, the Astros can’t offer the extra year, but they could offer more per season. The Astros are poised to win again in 2019, and adding Keuchel would increase those odds. Fans are down on him, but you can’t find anyone else like him on the market right now.
Keuchel, come back to Texas (not the Rangers).