Keuchel, White Sox finalize 3-year deal

December 30th, 2019

CHICAGO -- The White Sox and veteran left-handed starter seem like a perfect match on paper, with his propensity to induce ground balls playing well in hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field.

With the announcement Monday afternoon of Keuchel’s three-year, $55.5 million deal and the ensuing conference call, it’s clear this matchup goes beyond the numbers and into Keuchel’s role as a potential mentor for the team’s young hurlers.

“We view this as the next logical step in our process, one that was a high priority for us entering this offseason,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “And that being adding someone who not only helps stabilize the rotation but someone who is going to be a key contributor inside the clubhouse, as well.”

Keuchel, who turns 32 on Wednesday, will earn $18 million in each season from 2020-22. The White Sox hold a $20 million club option for '23 with a $1.5 million buyout.

“I just try to be myself, and I think about situations. I think about opportunities I’ve had throughout the course of my career,” Keuchel said. “I really want to kind of be there for those guys, because no one guy is going to make a whole team in baseball go.”

Keuchel is not exactly a pure stuff guy, but he knows how to pitch. His 60.1 percent ground-ball rate last season with the Braves was the highest of 152 pitchers with at least 250 batted balls induced, and his 2.3 degree average launch angle allowed was the lowest of that same 152-pitcher group.

Think , the former White Sox All-Star hurler, as somewhat of a comparison. Keuchel had a 3.75 ERA in 19 starts last season, with 91 strikeouts in 112 2/3 innings, after signing with Atlanta in June. An eight-season Major League veteran, Keuchel won the 2015 American League Cy Young Award and was a member of the Astros’ '17 World Series championship team. He has a 3.47 ERA in 12 career postseason games.

Those numbers certainly will play as part of a rotation already featuring , and , with and coming back from Tommy John surgery during the 2020 season. The White Sox also brought in southpaw on a one-year, $5 million deal with a club option for 2021.

Gonzalez’s contract guarantees $4.5 million in '20, and the option is worth $7 million, with a $500,000 buyout. Adding these two starters was a goal spoken of by Hahn since his end-of-season media session, and the White Sox have quality depth in this area, which they haven’t for several years. They also have a strong core of veterans to guide burgeoning young talent as the White Sox emerge from the first phase of a rebuild.

In the process, they pushed open that prime contending window at the end of the rebuild a little bit more.

“Just willingness to win,” Keuchel said. “I think communication between [agent] Scott [Boras] and I, along with Rick and [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] -- they are really pushing towards kind of opening that winning window. And, I think, in the AL Central, there is about a three- to five-year gap right now to really push it.”

Said Hahn: “Obviously, he's had success in the American League. He's pitched in not only the difficult environments of the postseason but throughout the regular season. The ground-ball profile has a great deal of appeal, strike-throwing profile, the four-pitch mix. Obviously, all these come with risk, but when we assessed things in the end, we were most comfortable with not only the projected performance but the impact in the clubhouse and the potential reward of adding a guy like Dallas Keuchel to this club.”

Boras, during Monday’s conference call, mentioned Keuchel’s positive influence on Gerrit Cole. It’s clear Keuchel understands what young players need to develop from a talented crew to championship caliber. So the deal ultimately works on several levels for the White Sox and Keuchel.

“I’ve already talked to [Yasmani] Grandal and Giolito and Gio Gonzalez -- reached out to [Jose] Abreu and going to reach out to some of these cats," Keuchel said. "Just being on the South Side, the black and white, it really bodes well not only for, I think, my skill set but also my clothing apparel.”

Said Hahn: “In the end, it's not ever going to be -- in our opinion, in the way we're projecting this thing out -- it's never going to come down to one specific guy. It's going to come down to the team pulling together, and we feel like Dallas is an important piece of making that happen.”