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Are these AL East teams the favorites for Keuchel?

May 25, 2019

After a seven-season tenure with the Astros that included a trio of 200-inning seasons, an American League Cy Young Award in 2015 and an overall 3.66 ERA, Dallas Keuchel is now a free agent. Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the left-hander.

After a seven-season tenure with the Astros that included a trio of 200-inning seasons, an American League Cy Young Award in 2015 and an overall 3.66 ERA, Dallas Keuchel is now a free agent.

Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the left-hander.

Rays keeping in touch with Keuchel

May 25: MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal and The Athletic's Josh Tolentino report that the Rays are remaining in touch with Keuchel and may look to him to strengthen their rotation. MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman has reported that the Yankees remain interested in Keuchel as well, which could set up a bidding war between the two teams after midnight ET on June 2, when teams would no longer have to give up a draft pick to sign him. While the Rays might not be a typical candidate to outbid the Yankees for a player, the Yankees will be looking to remain under the luxury tax threshold, which could put the Rays in a position to put forth a more enticing offer.

The Rays' rotation doesn't appear to need the help at the moment, with the best starters' ERA in the Majors at 2.42, but the team is currently without Tyler Glasnow, who had a 1.86 ERA in eight starts this year. He's been on the injured list since May 11 with a right forearm strain, and was at the time expected to miss four to six weeks. But there's no telling if he would return pitching at the same level he was before the injury, and Keuchel's presence would provide insurance and bolster the group, as well as take some of the load off the bullpen and opener strategy as the season reaches its summer months.

The Yankees just placed CC Sabathia on the injured list and are still dealing with injuries to Luis Severino and James Paxton, so their need for another rotation arm is evident, too. With the two top teams in the division in on him, Keuchel's decision play a role in deciding who wins the AL East?

Keuchel spotted at Angels game

May 25: While Keuchel has yet to ink a big league deal for 2019, that doesn't mean that he's missing out on the regular-season action. The southpaw was spotted taking in the Angels' 4-3 loss to the Rangers on Friday night in the field-level suite belonging to his agent, Scott Boras, at the Big A in Anaheim.

Keuchel remains a free agent, and it appears more and more likely that he will sign after the MLB Draft concludes in the first week of June. The pitcher is tied to Draft pick compensation after rejecting the Astros' qualifying offer last November, and so the logic goes that teams would be more willing to sign Keuchel for the stretch run once they know they wouldn't have to surrender a valuable Draft pick.

The Angels could be one of those suitors; Los Angeles sits six games under .500 and entered Friday with the highest rotation ERA (5.86) of the 30 MLB clubs.

Will Yanks pursue Keuchel after sending another pitcher to IL?

May 23: The injury-depleted Yankees lost another starting pitcher on Thursday when they placed CC Sabathia on the 10-day injured list with right knee inflammation, leaving Masahiro Tanaka, Domingo German and the struggling J.A. Happ as their only healthy starters.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman connected the Yanks to Keuchel earlier this month, noting that the club is expected to be interested after the MLB Draft, when teams will no longer need to surrender a pick to sign the left-hander, per the rules for players who reject a qualifying offer. It’s fair to wonder if the Yankees’ interest has grown with Sabathia going down again.

Whether New York actually pursues Keuchel may depend on how quickly James Paxton (left knee inflammation) and Sabathia recover. Paxton is scheduled to throw a simulated game Friday and could be cleared to return after that, and manager Aaron Boone said he doesn’t expect Sabathia’s absence to be a “long thing.” It’s possible that by the time the MLB Draft rolls around on June 2, the Yanks will have both Paxton and Sabathia back in the rotation.

Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean the team won’t become involved in the Keuchel sweepstakes anyway.

Sabathia is 38 years old and has been on the injured list twice already this season, Happ owns a 5.16 ERA with an even higher 5.70 FIP at age 36, and German needs to prove his wiry frame can handle the rigors of spending the entire season as a big league starter. Luis Severino, meanwhile, is not expected to return from his shoulder problems until after the All-Star break.

Although the Yankees have managed to claim first place in the American League East despite all their injuries and will have in-house reinforcements coming as their stars get healthy, the club needs to keep an eye on the postseason and a potential matchup with the powerhouse Astros, who have the second-best ERA and lowest opponents' average in the Majors.

Why aren’t the Padres considering Keuchel?

May 15: Although the Padres signed free agent Manny Machado and carried elite prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. on the Opening Day roster, the club wasn’t expected to be a serious postseason contender due to a questionable pitching staff.

Seven weeks into the season, San Diego is a surprising 22-20 and only one game out of a National League Wild Card spot, but its rotation beyond rookie sensation Chris Paddack remains a weak point for the club, and top pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore -- a 20-year-old left-hander currently dominating in Class A Advanced -- is unlikely to debut until 2020.

That seemingly makes the Padres an obvious suitor for Keuchel, especially because the veteran left-hander is reportedly willing to sign a one-year deal. Keuchel’s market is expected to pick up once the MLB Draft passes from June 3-5, at which point teams will no longer need to forfeit a Draft pick to sign the southpaw, per the qualifying offer rules.

However, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported in a story for The Athletic (subscription required) on Tuesday that Keuchel to the Padres is unlikely, even after the Draft, for the simple reason that he’s too similar to many of the team’s other starters.

"The Padres remain concerned about their starting pitching, knowing three of their soft-throwing lefties -- Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer and Nick Margevicius -- are likely no more than fourth or fifth starters," Rosenthal wrote. "A fourth lefty, converted reliever Matt Strahm, also does not throw particularly hard …. The team still wants to add a No. 1 starter, and doesn’t see Keuchel -- another velocity-challenged lefty -- as that type. A trade remains more likely."

Heyman: Rays interested in Keuchel after Glasnow injury

May 13: Many are keeping an eye on rotation injuries around the league as a means of deciphering the most likely landing spot for Keuchel and one team in particular that's lost a key starter has emerged as another contender for the free agent hurler.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, speaking on RADIO.COM's Big Time Baseball podcast, said Monday that the Rays are exploring Keuchel as an addition to their rotation now that Tyler Glasnow is expected to miss four to six weeks with a mild right forearm strain. Like most teams, the Rays aren't likely to extend an offer to Keuchel until after the MLB Draft on June 3, when he's no longer attached to Draft compensation as a result of the qualifying offer he received from the Astros in the offseason.

The Rays have gotten off to a strong start with a half-game lead on the Yankees for first place in the American League East entering Monday, and they certainly have the financial flexibility to bring in a free agent like Keuchel or former Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, to whom the Rays have also been linked. According to Spotrac.com, the Rays rank last in the Majors with a $62 million payroll.

"I do think that the Rays are looking at Dallas Keuchel," Heyman said. I know the Rays have been connected to Kimbrel already. That shocked a lot of people, but I think that is true as we know. They're at the very bottom of the salary standings, as a matter of fact. It's a credit to them that they've been able to put together such a good team with such a low payroll.

"But once that Draft choice goes away [for Keuchel and Kimbrel], both terrific pitchers, I think Tampa Bay and other teams will be looking seriously at both pitchers."

Glasnow was one of the best pitchers in baseball this season before his injury. He was 6-0 with an AL-leading 1.86 ERA through eight starts and won AL Pitcher of the Month honors for April. His injury leaves the Rays with just two starters -- ace Blake Snell and veteran Charlie Morton, though they also have two bulk-inning pitchers in Yonny Chirinos and Jalen Beeks on the roster.

"Last year was kind of interesting," Heyman said. "They basically had that one starter in Snell and got by with some moxy and some brains and figured it out with the openers and all that. Now they're looking at the rotation, and Dallas Keuchel would be something interesting for Tampa.

"And we know the Yankees are interested in Keuchel once that Draft choice goes away, too. Either of these teams could be improved and make that AL East even more interesting."

Injuries opening door for Keuchel?

May 11: Keuchel would be an upgrade over the No. 5 starter for virtually every team in the Majors, but some need him more than others due to their rotation injuries.

The Rays are the latest contender to lose a key starter, as Tyler Glasnow is expected to miss four to six weeks with a mild right forearm strain. Glasnow has been one of the breakout stars of this season, posting a 1.86 ERA with a 55-to-9 K/BB ratio over 48 1/3 innings for the first-place Rays.

Tampa Bay is just a half-game up on the Yankees in the American League East despite New York dealing with injuries to many big-name players, and the reigning World Series champion Red Sox have pulled to within four games after a slow start.

Could Keuchel help the Rays stay ahead in the division race? Signing him would be uncharacteristic for Tampa Bay, but the club has payroll flexibility, and Keuchel wouldn’t require a long-term commitment, as he is reportedly open to a one-year deal. Rosterresource.com projects the Rays’ payroll to be just $64 million this season.

Granted, neither the Rays nor any other team is likely to make an aggressive play for Keuchel now, with the MLB Draft less than a month away (June 3-5). Once the Draft passes, teams will no longer need to give up a Draft pick to sign Keuchel, who rejected a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Astros in November.

But once that time comes, the Rays could be on the list of teams that strongly consider Keuchel, especially because signing him would have the added benefit of keeping him away from the Yankees, whom MLB Network insider Jon Heyman considers the favorites to land the southpaw.

The Yankees are missing Luis Severino, whose shoulder ailment is expected to keep him out until after the All-Star break, and James Paxton, who is on the injured list with left knee inflammation, placing a great deal of importance on 36-year-old J.A. Happ, 38-year-old CC Sabathia and the inexperienced Domingo German, who is pitching well but has never thrown more than 123 1/3 innings in a professional season.

Heyman reports that Keuchel is believed to prefer a big market, but if the money is right, perhaps former Astros teammate Charlie Morton could sell the hurler on Tampa Bay. Morton has recorded a 2.64 ERA this season after signing a two-year, $30 million deal with the Rays in December.

Keuchel could also be an option for the Mets, who are currently without Steven Matz (radial nerve irritation in left arm) and Jason Vargas (left hamstring). Vargas was struggling even when he was healthy, registering a 5.92 ERA. The Mets have stumbled to an 18-20 record after starting out 9-4, and COO Jeff Wilpon met with general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and manager Mickey Callaway on Friday to discuss the team's recent play.

The Phillies reportedly showed interested in Keuchel during the offseason and could re-emerge as a suitor. The club placed Vince Velasquez on the 10-day injured list Saturday due to a right forearm strain, and Nick Pivetta was optioned to Triple-A in April after recording an 8.35 ERA over his first four starts.

Heyman: Yankees most likely to land Keuchel

May 10: With a 3.28 ERA in the regular season since the outset of 2014 and a career 3.31 mark in the postseason, Keuchel could still have a major impact on this season, even though he hasn’t thrown a competitive pitch since Oct. 16, 2018. However, potential Keuchel suitors are unlikely to get aggressive now with the MLB Draft less than a month away (June 3-5), as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi wrote last week.

Once the Draft passes, teams will no longer need to surrender a pick to sign the left-hander, who rejected a qualifying offer from the Astros in November. In an appearance on MLB Network on Friday, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand indicated that it is pretty much a foregone conclusion among industry insiders that Keuchel won't sign before the Draft.

"Teams aren't going to give up a Draft pick for three or three and a half months of a guy's services," Feinsand said. "At this point you're three and a half weeks away from the Draft, teams are going to wait it out. Most teams are focused on the Draft right now anyway, inside their front offices. The Draft ends on June 5 and it wouldn't surprise me if by June 8 Dallas Keuchel has a deal somewhere."

On Thursday, fivethirtyeight.com broke down which teams could use Keuchel the most and landed on the Cardinals, who entered Friday with 198 runs scored -- the fifth most in MLB -- but a 4.51 rotation ERA, which ranks 18th.

In particular, St. Louis’ starters have struggled to prevent home runs, allowing more homers (39) than all but two teams. Keuchel, meanwhile, has allowed only 0.87 HR/9 during his career while posting a ground-ball rate near 59 percent.

If signed, Keuchel would presumably replace Dakota Hudson, who has posted a 4.63 ERA with nine home runs allowed over 35 innings, in the Cardinals’ rotation.

The National League Central is shaping up to be one of baseball’s most competitive divisions this season, and bumping Hudson in favor of Keuchel has the potential to be the deciding factor for St. Louis.

Of course, just because the Cardinals are arguably the team that needs Keuchel the most doesn't necessarily mean St. Louis is most likely to sign him. In an appearance on WFAN on Thursday, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman said he thinks the Yankees are the favorites to land the southpaw. Heyman later noted in a tweet that Keuchel is believed to prefer a big market.

Keuchel would make sense as a target for the Yankees, who have remained afloat in the American League East despite a rash of injuries, including a shoulder ailment that is expected to keep ace Luis Severino out until after the All-Star break. James Paxton is also on the injured list with left knee inflammation, placing a great deal of importance on 36-year-old J.A. Happ, 38-year-old CC Sabathia and the inexperienced Domingo German, who is pitching well but has never thrown more than 123 1/3 innings in a professional season.

Keuchel: 'I’m not looking to sit out this whole year'

May 7: As the MLB season rolls on without him, Keuchel emerged to comment on his ongoing free agency in an interview with Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports on Monday.

According to Keuchel, he remains unsigned because he hasn’t received any offers he considers to be fair.

"If you would’ve asked me on the first day of free agency, I would have said no way I’d be here on May 6," Keuchel said. "This was not the plan at all. I would love to be out there playing ball and helping a team win. Because, to my career at this point, I’ve done more winning than I have losing and at a much higher clip. So what team wouldn’t want me to be out there?

"Am I the best at this point in time? No. But am I more than or better than some of the offers I’ve been given? Absolutely. That’s not me being greedy. That’s just my compensation in the market from what the analytical data is telling me. I didn’t come up with this. The front offices came up with this. So now they’re trying to tell me I’m less than what the analytical data is saying. How is that possible?"

Keuchel said his agent, Scott Boras, has recommended considering some of the offers he has received, but the left-hander has rejected them.

"I told him no on numerous deals because it’s about principle," Keuchel said. "It’s about fair market value. And I wasn’t getting that."

Keuchel said he has been compared to running back Le’Veon Bell, who sat out the entire 2018 NFL season after refusing to sign his franchise tag, worth $14.5 million, with the Steelers. Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets in March that will pay him $35 million in guaranteed money.

The veteran starter believes he’ll eventually return this season, but he conceded that he may need to wait until after the MLB Draft in early June. At that point, teams will no longer have to surrender a Draft pick to sign Keuchel, who rejected a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Astros in November. Keuchel could sign a one-year deal and hit the market again in the offseason, at which point he would no longer be eligible to receive a qualifying offer.

"When people tweet at me, saying, 'Hey, quit being the Le’Veon Bell of baseball,' it is a funny line," Keuchel said. "But he stood up for himself. He stood up for his well-being. And I’m standing up for my well-being as well. It’s about principle in both situations.

"Now, I’m not looking to sit out this whole year. I wasn’t looking to sit out at all. But we are in this situation right now. I would love to sign tomorrow. I would love to sign right now. Or, I might have to wait until this Draft pick comes off me. Whatever happens, happens. I’m not going to dwell on it. I’m going to be ready to go. That’s me right now."

Keuchel 'increasingly likely' to sign after MLB Draft

May 7: It looked as though the market for Keuchel was about to pick up when reports emerged in mid-April that the left-hander was open to a one-year deal.

But with the southpaw still unsigned less than a month before the MLB Draft, MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi writes that it is becoming "increasingly likely" that Keuchel will wait until after the Draft before signing.

At that point, teams will no longer have to surrender a Draft pick to sign Keuchel, who rejected a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Astros in November. The first day of this year’s Draft is June 3, just shy of four weeks from now.

Keuchel could sign a one-year deal and hit the market again in the offseason, at which point he would no longer be eligible to receive a qualifying offer.

So which teams might be interested in signing him next month?

"The Tigers, Indians and Rangers are not viewed as strong candidates to sign Keuchel, apparently because of his asking price," Morosi writes. "The Yankees, Brewers and Angels are among the possible landing spots, depending on the health status of their injured pitchers -- and their place in the standings -- when the Draft is over."

Despite their multitude of injuries, the Yanks entered Tuesday only two games behind the first-place Rays in the American League East. New York is expected to be without ace Luis Severino (shoulder) until after the All-Star break. James Paxton (knee) is also on the injured list, but general manager Brian Cashman said Sunday that the left-hander is unlikely to be out more than three weeks.

The Brewers already brought in Gio Gonzalez in late April, and they are awaiting the returns of Chase Anderson (finger) and Jimmy Nelson (shoulder) from the injured list. Milwaukee sits in third place in the National League Central but is just one game behind the first-place Cardinals.

The Angels, meanwhile, are 15-19, putting them in fourth place in the AL West, 5 1/2 games out. Andrew Heaney (elbow) hasn't appeared yet this season, and new additions Matt Harvey (6.94 ERA), Trevor Cahill (6.95 ERA) and Chris Stratton (8.59 ERA) have struggled.

Will Keuchel be in pinstripes this summer?

May 2: If Keuchel is still available by the time the Draft happens in June, count the Yankees among the teams that will be interested.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman said in his Radio.com podcast Thursday that the Yanks will look at Keuchel if he remains unsigned after the Draft passes. That's because Keuchel would no longer have the Draft pick compensation tied to him that comes from having received and turned down a qualifying offer.

"Once that Draft pick is gone -- and I'm speculating to some degree here, but not completely -- the Yankees are a team that would be interested in Keuchel, if they did not have to give up that No. 38 pick overall," Heyman said in the podcast. "They don't want to give up that pick. But once that pick goes away, I think the Yankees and several other teams will be looking at Dallas Keuchel, if he does hold out until June."

Heyman reiterated reports from earlier this week that Keuchel would be willing to take a one-year deal. He said Keuchel seems to be looking for value in the neighborhood of the qualifying offer, which was $17.9 million this offseason. But the Draft pick compensation is still weighing on teams that might be interested.

"These teams may just wait until June, and Keuchel may end up waiting until June. We will see," Heyman said. "I think a number of teams will jump in at that point, and he may have his pick of the teams."

Keuchel looking for one-year deal

April 30: Keuchel's desire is to sign a one-year deal that will let him re-enter free agency this coming offseason, according to a report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal on Tuesday (subscription required).

That would give Keuchel the chance to build up his value over the remainder of the 2019 season and then hit the open market without the Draft pick cost of a qualifying offer hanging over his head.

If Keuchel were to take that course, it might take until after the June Draft to find a landing spot with a contender, when interested teams will no longer be subject to that Draft pick compensation. That could mean not pitching in a Major League game until July.

But if he can sign sooner, it would mean more money this season and more time to build value for free agency.

Where do Mets stand on Keuchel?

April 24: With Jason Vargas struggling and Jacob deGrom on the injured list due to right elbow soreness, the Mets are in need of some rotation depth. In place of deGrom on Saturday night, Chris Flexen allowed five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings, bumping his career ERA to 8.59 in 19 games (11 starts).

The Mets are an obvious fit for Keuchel, who remains unsigned. While MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday on FOX Sports that New York was much more likely to sign Gio Gonzalez than Keuchel, it's possible that the club could more strongly consider Keuchel with Gonzalez now off the market, having agreed to a one-year deal with the Brewers.

The Mets could also look to sign Craig Kimbrel, which would allow them to move Seth Lugo to the rotation.

However, Rosenthal notes that the club would only be open to doing so if Kimbrel is willing to pitch in different roles rather than just the ninth inning, as it has Edwin Diaz locked in as the closer. It’s unclear if Kimbrel would be amenable to that after spending the past eight seasons getting the final three outs.

How long would Keuchel and Kimbrel take to be game-ready?

April 19: As multiple clubs ponder whether to sign Keuchel and/or Kimbrel, one particular factor they must consider is how long it would be before each pitcher is ready to contribute at the Major League level after such a lengthy layoff.

MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand posed that question to a number of baseball executives this past week. The consensus? Neither pitcher should be rushed into action after they sign.

“The main thing for a free agent who has missed Spring Training and being around the day in, day out competitive grind at this level is knowing every detail about how they’ve been preparing mentally and physically to compete,” one American League executive said. “The more specifics we would have there, the more confident we would be in them being prepared to get caught up. From there, I think we can do the best to individualize and optimize a build-up plan to Major League action. It’s a tall task to just jump right in after months not in Major League games.”

“I would expect Keuchel to take a month to get where we would want him to be,” said another AL exec. “Kimbrel should take a couple weeks.”

Keuchel has been throwing 95-pitch simulated games every five days, but the executives agreed that sim games are different than actual competition.

“I would have to believe that both would have to spend some time facing competition to get ramped up,” a third AL executive said. “Most teams would want to see [Keuchel] pitch in at least a few Minor League games.” More >