These are the top contenders to sign Keuchel

June 3rd, 2019

’s free agency hit a new stage as the clock struck midnight, turning Sunday into Monday. As of that point, there was no longer Draft-pick compensation attached to the former American League Cy Young Award winner, meaning teams are free to sign him for nothing more than cold, hard cash.

With the Draft compensation no longer a factor, most believe Keuchel will find a home early this week. He’s said to be open to a one-year deal, presumably at the same prorated value as the $17.9 million qualifying offer he turned down from the Astros over the winter.

Where Keuchel winds up remains something of a mystery, though a number of executives predicted that the left-hander would land in the Bronx, giving the Yankees another veteran piece to add to their talent-laden roster.

Here’s a look at five teams that could be in the mix for Keuchel in the coming days:

New York Yankees

The Yankees have been without ace Luis Severino for the entire season, though Domingo German has filled in seamlessly as the rotation’s best pitcher. Where the concern lies for the Yankees is in its stability in terms of health, as James Paxton and CC Sabathia have both spent time on the injured list. Severino isn’t due back until sometime in July, German will likely face an innings limit at some point (he’s never thrown 125 innings in a season in pro ball) and the depth at Triple-A is limited. For a team with World Series aspirations, adding Keuchel would be beneficial. The biggest question: Will he be happy having to go with the clean-shaven look?

San Diego Padres

The Padres are over .500 in early June, putting them firmly in the National League Wild Card mix. Young starters Chris Paddack, Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer have pitched well, but the back end of the rotation has been an issue. Keuchel would provide stability in one of those spots, not to mention a leader for the kids, one with a AL Cy Young Award and World Series ring on his resume. San Diego has shown the willingness to spend money -- Manny Machado, anyone? -- so seeing the Padres pay up for a little more than a half-season of Keuchel wouldn’t be a shock.

Tampa Bay Rays

With the best starting rotation ERA in the Majors, the Rays don’t seem like a club that needs any help there. But Tampa Bay’s starters have thrown fewer innings than any team in baseball thanks to its use of openers, so the idea of adding another proven veteran to go with Charlie Morton and Blake Snell makes sense. Tyler Glasnow is out for at least another month, and now that the Yankees have taken over first place in the AL East, the Rays might feel the need to add a pitcher of Keuchel’s stature. It’s only a half-season or so of financial commitment, so it’s a move the small-market Rays can likely make without much of a problem.

Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee’s rotation was rolling a few weeks ago, but the group took a pair of hits this week, as Gio Gonzalez went on the IL with a fatigued left arm and Jhoulys Chacin is out with a lower back strain. When you then factor in Freddy Peralta’s inconsistency, the Brewers -- whose 4.59 rotation ERA ranks 12th out of 15 in the NL -- might have more of a need for Keuchel than any contender in the league. Given that the spread between first-place Milwaukee and last-place Cincinnati is only 6 1/2 games, the Brewers will need to figure out a salve for their rotation. Keuchel might be the answer.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies’ hold on first place in the NL East is tenuous, and the rotation’s performance this season is a major factor. The group’s 4.22 ERA ranks eighth in the NL, as it’s been a struggle for the back of the rotation all year. Nick Pivetta was supposed to be a key piece of the Phillies’ rotation this season, but he had a woesome start to the season and was sent to the Minors before recently being recalled. Zach Eflin is battling back troubles, and Vince Velasquez has been uneven all season. “Keuchel to Philly” was a popular rumor throughout the winter; could it finally happen? Agent Scott Boras worked out a deal with the Phillies for Bryce Harper, so the two sides know each other well.