In Passing on Dallas Keuchel, Yankees ‘penny wise, pound foolish’

On Thursday, the Yankees missed out on their chance to sign lefty starter Dallas Keuchel. As the old song goes, you can’t always get what you want, but…you might get what you need. That’ll be the case for the Yankees, right? I’m not so sure, given that what we as fans wanted and what the Yankees as a team need are one in the same.

It appears the Yankees passed on Keuchel, who was available for only money, over…money. A very small amount of money. $1-2 million, according to that tweet, given that Keuchel signed with the Braves for $13M. I cannot stress enough how frustrating this is, especially because the Yankees’ negotiation tactic was essentially take it or leave it. In saving money as they did this offseason by not signing Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Patrick Corbin, or Keuchel, the Yankees have once again forgone their biggest advantage in today’s baseball landscape: their financial clout. And what did they get for it? Literally and figuratively nothing. There’s still a rotation hole to be filled and there are two paths to doing so.

The first is to wait for the cavalry of Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery. That plan is just plain bad, as talented as those two are. There’s really no need to explain anymore as to why waiting on injured pitchers is bad strategy.

The second is to make a trade. Already, some trade candidates–or the idea of them–have emerged: mainly Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, and (pipe dream) Max Scherzer. Those pitchers are all very talented and any team would and should want them. But when it will cost prospects to get them when you could’ve had an (almost) equal alternative for money makes the idea less attractive and the pill harder to swallow. There’s a touch of irony here because the Yankees seemed to want to avoid a bidding war by standing so firm in their demand for Keuchel. Do they think there won’t be other contenders vying for those pitchers? Do they think there won’t be a prospect bidding war for pitchers as valuable and well-regarded as Stroman, Bumgarner, and Scherzer? I would prefer they hold firm on prospect cost than on financial cost, but to think they’ll ‘scape the brawl of a bidding war just because it’s not financial seems…naive. To compound the matter, the Yankees’ most attractive trade chip is Clint Frazier, an outfielder.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the Yankees’ three best outfielders have all missed major time on the IL at least once in the last two seasons. Considering the other non-Frazier outfielder is a mid-30’s player who may be gone after this year, trading your best piece of future outfield depth seems unwise when there was an alternative that, if taken, would have/could have avoided that necessity. Some may argue that the Yankees are good about knowing which prospects to trade and which not to trade, but how many of those that they don’t miss have had stretches like what Frazier is having now?

As an aside, it’s very telling that the Yankee-related media was so quick to vilify Clint Frazier last week yet won’t move a foot to seek a foe in the Yankees for not improving the team in the easiest possible way.

Dallas Keuchel isn’t going to be the 2015 version of himself again and I understand that. Players who don’t have a traditional spring may struggle to adapt and I understand that. Keuchel may fall flat on his face with the Braves and could’ve done so with the Yankees and I understand that. But that risk is one worth taking, certainly more so than trading a useful piece for today and tomorrow when the targets in question could work out poorly, too.

With how they acted in the offseason, this move is hardly surprising. But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. There was a clear opportunity for the Yankees to get a valuable piece for the second half via their biggest advantage and they passed. This is still a good team without Keuchel, but it would be better with him and without the extra $2M that the Braves put in.

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11 Comments

  1. RetroRob

    I don’t see the Yankees trading Frazier for a three-month rental, especially considering Judge and Stanton are very big men who have shown a propensity to get injured and miss time. HIcks missing time every year and I don’t expect that to get better as he ages. Last, Gardner is 35. He’s still a good guy to have on the team (especially since he rarely lands on the IL and can cover CF), but he’s 35 and is now on the downside. They need Frazier as a longer-term answer. The bat looks good. He needs to tighten up the fielding. He’s a good athlete. He should be able to do it.

    Trading Frazier for a good starter who they can keep beyond 2019 is fine. A three month rental? Not so much.

  2. One last dumb comment from me, if they trade Frazier, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andujar given an outfielders glove in the off season and in ST.

    Even if Urshela turns back into a pumpkin, I think that ship has sailed as Andujar being an everyday 3b.

    I’d personally like to keep Frazier at all costs and start him in LF as soon as Stanton returns.

  3. Matt,

    Hal seems to greatly prefer paying with potentially inflated prospect value and keeping payroll and the Lux Tax lower. Will the Yanks get Stroman or some other potentially better arm than Keuchel? I hope so.

    I could understand if the Yanks just weren’t interested in Keuchel. Part of it may be it was a decision they made that says, “If we get him at the minimum, great, if not, we trade for someone better”. That seems a bit of a reach and maybe poor analysis, either the guy is a difference maker or he isn’t.

    However, I think we see several things here at play.

    One, Cashman likely views guys as somewhat interchangeable – a Keuchel is pretty much the same as several guys who will be available in trades.

    Two, Cash has to really consider every penny now. The days are gone where he can just use financial might to get what he needs.

    Three, Hal’s long game is more evident. He is not going to “overpay” a player. It strikes me as him letting the agents and players know that you basically either want to be a Yankee at his valuation or you don’t. I personally find this detestable in many ways, but it’s not going to change unless his Revenue dramatically declines. That likely never happens so get used to the new paradigm.

  4. TheOneWhoKnocks

    I get this take 100% I really do. Would I be upset if the Yankees trade Frazier or Florial or Garcia for a pitcher similar to Keuchel just to save some money? Sure, everyone should be upset about that. But that’s not what’s going to happen. $13mil is a lot of money to have at the deadline. Yankees could add Bumgarner and Colome at the deadline for less than $13mil for the rest of season. And they can probably do that without trading Frazier or anybody we’d miss much if at all. Yankees are really deep with prospects, so deep in fact that they’re going to end up losing a couple quality players in the rule 5 draft for nothing because they can’t fit them on the roster. So don’t lament having to trade prospects by default, for most of them, that’s the best chance they’re ever going to have to help the org is in a trade.
    TLDR version:
    Yankees will fill the rotation spot, probably with someone who’s a safer bet than Keuchel, probably for less total value and we should be a little bit patient. It’s not fair to call them cheap when they were one of only a couple teams even willing to spend $11mil at this point of the season, and the Braves were a lot more desperate.

    • I’m not the droids you’re looking for

      I’m sorry, but did you just say that we can trade for Bum without trading Frazier? LULZ.

      • TheOneWhoKnocks

        Happ was having an all star season and only netted Drury + McKinney from a division rival. Bumgarners value is going to be at best similar. (He’s not having as good a year as Happ was but he’s younger and has the track record). Giants won’t be able to get anything like Frazier for him.

  5. CountryClub

    I don’t know if they made a mistake or not. I won’t argue with anyone either way. I’m personally not a huge fan of his, but I understand the need for an innings eater. That said, the post probably should have mentioned that the Yankees analytics team doesn’t like him at all. That probably explains why they would only offer him so much money.

    • Not disagreeing, I just find it interesting that they would even offer Keuchel a contract considering his declining peripherals.

      • RetroRob

        He can have declining peripherals and still be a solid pickup for a few months. I’d take 2018 Keuchel on the Yankees. I think the OP’s point is murky, or more specifically, what the Yankees analytics team thinks of Keuchel is murky. I’m sure they don’t like him as a long-term signing, but by offering about $11M indicates they also don’t think he’s cooked.

  6. What frustrates me the most, the media attacked frazier like he was to be ostracized, but say NOTHING about them being cheap on keuchel, do they have more books to write? As they already were told they weren’t signing machado,harper before any of us ever knew.. But the media kept it secret for their book while leading us on.

    • Yes, the media have many, many more nonsensical books to write. The landscape for sports writing as the career it was has drastically changed. JMO, these guys are very afraid for their future.

      The media didn’t really keep the Yanks interest level in those guys secret. Some guys shilled and click baited like they always do, some guys just did a combo of wild guessing and click baiting (Hello Jon Heyman), and a few people actually did some leg work combined with some reasoned analysis.

      Most of the MSM though seems to put very little intellectual effort and leg work into their articles. That’s why RAB, 314 and others are so valuable.

      Curry, Adler and Harvey deserve praise for rising far above the rest of their MSM colleagues.

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