Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

A key to Keuchel's second run at free agency is ...

November 12, 2019

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.

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.

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.

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.

Could Keuchel return to Atlanta?

Oct. 28: Starting with breakout rookie Mike Soroka, the Braves have an abundance of young pitchers who are either already having success at the big league level or seem to be on the verge of breaking through to the Majors. While that certainly dampens the possibility of Keuchel potentially re-signing with Atlanta, the Braves also recognize the value of having a veteran starter on such a young pitching staff. That said, the club could opt to fill that role by simply picking up Julio Teheran's $12 million club option for 2020 -- likely a far cheaper option than bringing back Keuchel.