The second week of the 2019 season is upon us, and although you can’t glean too much information from a team’s first handful of games, the makeup of rosters as the season gets underway can tell you a lot about where a club is heading and what their potential needs might be.
For teams facing injury issues, it might mean the need to add a veteran arm to eat innings. For teams relying on young pitchers, the prospect of innings-limit situations could prompt them to scan the landscape for some rotation help.
That brings us to Dallas Keuchel, who remains on the free-agent market despite a solid track record that includes the 2015 American League Cy Young Award. Now that the calendar has turned to April and teams are getting an idea of what they have, here are some clubs that might consider signing the 31-year-old left-hander. And before we dive in, it’s worth noting the Astros gave Keuchel a qualifying offer, so any team that signs him will have to forfeit some sort of Draft pick compensation, except for Houston, of course. Though if Keuchel waits until after the June Draft to sign, no one will have to give up a Draft pick if they sign him.
San Diego Padres
San Diego attempted to improve its rotation during the offseason through trades; they were said to have great interest in both Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer of the Indians and were also connected to Toronto’s Marcus Stroman. Youngsters Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi, Chris Paddack and Nick Margevicius give the Padres a young core of starters upon which to build, but none has topped the 140-inning mark in pro ball. Having already added Manny Machado and promoted Fernando Tatis Jr., it’s clear the Padres are looking to contend; the addition of Keuchel to help mentor the young pitching staff would help that cause.
As much as the Phillies did to improve their roster this winter -- Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson are all new faces this season -- the one area that remained the same was the rotation. Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta lead the group, but Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez have yet to establish themselves, the latter two having potential innings-limit issues. Philadelphia was mentioned as a possible landing spot for Keuchel all winter, though word continues to be that a one-year deal is all the Phillies would have interest in pursuing.
St. Louis Cardinals
Dakota Hudson’s career-high innings total is 152 2/3, which he threw in 2017 at two levels of the Minors. Last year, he tossed 139 frames, including 27 1/3 relief innings at the Major League level. He’s being given a chance to start for the Cardinals this season, though after allowing three homers in 4 1/3 innings in his debut, he was shipped off to the bullpen to skip a turn as planned thanks to a team off-day. St. Louis is likely to give the young righty an opportunity to prove himself, though the bigger issue might be how effective 37-year-old right-hander Adam Wainwright can be this season. Bringing in Keuchel would bolster the rotation as the Cards prepare for a tough battle in the NL Central.
Milwaukee is off to a stellar start, but the inexperience of Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta will likely mean workload management later in the season for all three starters. For a team with postseason expectations, adding a veteran such as Keuchel -- who has thrown 200-plus innings in three of the past five seasons, including last year -- would go a long way toward helping the rotation.
Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright had combined to make one career start entering the season, and while a pair of bad starts against the impressive Phillies isn’t enough for GM Alex Anthopoulos to push the panic button, a case can be made that Atlanta needs a veteran arm to bolster the rotation. The uncertainty surrounding Mike Foltynewicz’s elbow and potential innings-limit situations for Wilson and Wright would be helped by a veteran with a track record of eating innings.
New York Yankees
The Yankees entered the spring with a solid starting rotation, though Luis Severino’s worrisome right shoulder leaves a potential hole at the top. New York remains hopeful that Severino will be back next month, but if his rehab doesn’t progress as well as they expect, Keuchel could become an option. Gio Gonzalez was signed late in the spring for depth purposes, but Keuchel offers a bit more upside.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have stumbled out of the gate, thanks largely to an ineffective starting rotation that has three pitchers with ERAs north of 8.00. Andrew Heaney’s left elbow continues to keep him sidelined, while Shohei Ohtani will be limited to hitting duties only this season as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. Chris Stratton, who was acquired just before Opening Day, wasn’t sharp in his first start and might not be the answer, either. Adding Keuchel -- especially on a short-term deal -- would give the Angels a veteran presence and take some innings pressure off the rest of the staff. Not to mention Keuchel's agent, Scott Boras, could enjoy watching his client from his dugout suite seats behind the plate.
New York Mets
The top of the Mets’ rotation is in good shape, with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler leading the way. Steven Matz is a solid No. 4, but Jason Vargas had a down year in 2018 (5.77 ERA), throwing five-or-fewer innings in 13 of his 20 starts and only 92 innings overall. Considering how competitive the NL East is expected to be this season, adding a veteran such as Keuchel (who is five years younger than Vargas) would bolster an already impressive rotation and take some pressure off a bullpen that is strong at the top but lacks depth.