Tag: Dallas Keuchel

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.

The Atlanta Braves Have Signed Dallas Keuchel

Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Well, that’s not what you want. The Atlanta Braves have signed Dallas Keuchel, according to The Athletic’s Dave O’Brien. Terms of the deal are not yet available, but here’s what we know so far:

If that’s actually a one-year deal, consider me capital-A Annoyed. The Yankees should have been all over this. I’ve said what I have to say about Keuchel the pitcher here, so check that out if you missed it. TL;DR: despite some red flags, he’d have made a very nice addition to the Yankee rotation.

Hopefully, the reason why the Yanks weren’t in on this is because they have a trade for a better pitcher in the works, or think they can execute one. More likely, though, this came down to money and money alone. These aren’t your father’s New York Yankees anymore, folks. Sigh.

We’ll update with more information as it’s made available.

Update (10:50pm): The final deal for Keuchel comes in at 1 year, $13 million, per Tim Brown of Yahoo.

The New York Post’s Joel Sherman reports that the Yankees were willing to go as high as the pro-rated bonus, which is $11 million.

Yeah. So my initial instincts were right: the Yankees got outbid by the freaking Atlanta Braves. $2m is peanuts to an organization like the Yankees–and a $13 or even $15 million salary wouldn’t put the Yanks above their precious 3rd luxury tax threshold anyway–and it is infuriating that they missed out on yet another free agent pitcher who would help the team. Absolutely infuriating.

I am so sick of hearing “they liked Player X, but on their terms” and that “the Yankees are making a trade by getting Injured Yankee A back” because frankly, that is a cop out. The Yankees are by far the richest team in the entire sport, they are in the midst of a legitimate title run, and they have a clear need in the rotation. I guess we wait 2 months for the deadline, but I’m pretty sure we know the game here: the Yanks will be connected to a starter, like the player as a player, but not like the contract and pass on it. Same old movie we’ve seen a hundred times.

They have won one (1) title since Opening Day 2001 and watched their rivals in Boston win 4 titles in that time. The Yankees haven’t won the division since 2012. The Yankees are very smart and have built a winner, and they deserve credit for that. They do not deserve total deference, though. Hopefully they don’t regret this and they go out and get an even better pitcher, though whoever that is will cost both money and prospects. But hey: at least they won tonight.

Free Agent Profile: Dallas Keuchel

Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Welcome to Free Agency 2.0, I guess. It’s hard for me to get even pretend excited about the fact that teams might finally be willing to sign players like Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel now that there isn’t a draft pick attached to them. It’s clearly bad for baseball and yet another sign that the fundamental economics of the sport are broken. But that’s another post for another day.

Anyway, this is all relevant to the Yankees. The onslaught of Yankee injuries has, of course, impacted the rotation, most notably with staff ace Luis Severino, who has yet to throw a pitch in 2019. James Paxton and CC Sabathia have also missed time, and with fragile injury histories, may indeed do so again this season. Masahiro Tanaka, as well, is an injury risk.

This is on top of the fact that New York is only getting an average 5.2 innings and 83 pitches per start from its starting rotation. I wrote yesterday about how the bullpen has been otherworldly, and that’s cool and good, but it would be nice to see some starting pitching length to ease the burden on the big bullpen arms. All those high-leverage innings add up.

This all leads to a potential marriage with Dallas Keuchel. As Steven noted on Saturday, the Yanks have been linked to Keuchel several times over the past few days. Oddly enough, the Yanks weren’t linked to Keuchel at all (not even once) this offseason. Things change. Let’s take a look at what Keuchel brings to the table and then see if he makes sense for New York.

Pitcher Profile

The 31-year-old former Cy Young winner entered free agency for the first time last winter after spending a part of 7 seasons with the Houston Astros. He was a member of the World Series winning team in 2017. If you’re looking for a name, Dallas Keuchel has it.

He went 12-11 last year in Houston, pitching to a 3.74 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 204.2 innings. That’s about who he is these days. Since he won the Cy Young (back in 2015, when he also eliminated the Yankees in the Wild Card Round), Keuchel has a 3.77 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 518.1 innings. That’s about 5 percent better than league average. A solid pitcher, that is. No more, no less.

He is your standard ground ball pitcher, pounding batters with his sinker 57% of the time, inducing ground balls about 60% of the time during his career. He also features a four-seam, a cutter, a change, and a slider. He’s a true five-pitch pitcher, though he has a low spin-rate (most sinkerballers do, that’s the point) and pitches at a low-velocity.

A lefty who keeps the ball on the ground can seem tailor-made for Yankee Stadium (particularly with the Yanks’ newfound defensive prowess in the infield), but there are some red flags here. Take a look at this:

GB%K%Soft Contact%Hard Contact%
201561.7%23.7%25.2%21.3%
201656.7%20.5%21.1%29.8%
201766.8%21.4%25.4%24.7%
201853.7%17.5%22.4%28.1%

Keuchel saw his ground ball rate drop 13 percentage points and hard hit percentage increase 4 percentage points in 2018. There’s clearly been some year-to-year fluctuation here, so I’d be less worried about this…were his K% not trending downward over time. It suffered a 4 percentage point drop from 2017 to 2018, meaning Keuchel is missing fewer bats and inducing fewer ground balls. Couple that with an 88 mph sinker, and you have some worrying signs. Keuchel’s profile makes him seem older than he is. That’s a worrying sign, especially considering the potential context of the hitter-heavy AL East and homer-happy Yankee Stadium.

But here’s the thing: that would matter more if it were a long-term deal. That’s not going to happen. On a prorated one-year deal that will last only two-thirds of the season, though, these concerns matter less. Significantly less.

Basically, what you see with Keuchel is what you get: an average to an above-average starting pitcher who can give you consistent innings. There’s real value in that.

Does He Make Sense for the Yanks?

The Yankees starting rotation is still filled with question marks, though it’s been (unsurprisingly) effective so far in 2019. The simultaneous Paxton/Sabathia injuries a few weeks ago really hammered home how fragile the rotation is, though. Even if that’s true for every team, and it is, the Yankees should want to put themselves in the best possible position to win. The goal is to win a championship this year, after all.

So with that in mind, I think Keuchel is a clear fit for New York. Although it would probably take him two weeks (figure, what, 2-3 tune up AAA starts before he’s MLB ready?) to join the team, the Yanks would be adding a veteran, MLB-quality starting pitcher to their rotation. That’s a real improvement from Luis Cessa or David Hale. Again, the goal is to win a championship now, and it’s hard to argue that Keuchel, warts and all, wouldn’t result in an automatic upgrade.

(As a brief aside, this reminds me a bit of the trade for J.A. Happ last year. The Yanks needed a guy who could provide consistent length and quality innings, and even though there were some “warning” signs, it’s obvious that Happ solidified the Yankee rotation in the second half last year. This is a similar situation, at least to me.)

At this point, you’d think that he would sign a prorated deal around the value qualifying offer, which, based on some back-of-the-envelope math, is about $10-11 million. That’s it. No hidden costs. No draft pick, nothing. That’s low enough to keep the Yanks under the third tier of the luxury tax threshold—something we all know is important to management, regardless of how we feel about it.

Keuchel not perfect nor the type of pitcher (high-velocity, high-strikeout) the front office favors these days, but the 31-year-old sinkerballer seems to come at the right cost for the Yanks. He also offers the consistent innings the team needs. Seems like a match is possible, if not likely. If the Yanks do decide to move forward and bring him aboard, fans can feel reasonably confident that their starting rotation improved.

Pre-draft Dallas Keuchel rumor roundup

Prepared for a beardless Dallas Keuchel? (Elsa/Getty Images)

There are still two of the top free agents from this past offseason unsigned. While the Yankees hardly need a reliever (sorry, Craig Kimbrel), the Bombers could use a boost in the starting rotation and have thus been tied to Dallas Keuchel.

Here’s a rundown on some recent reports and rumors about the 2015 American League Cy Young winner:

Boras: Keuchel could be ready to pitch in a week

Beyond negotiating record deals, agent Scott Boras is known for talking a big game. With Keuchel as his client, he is no different. The agent told MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi that the left-hander would be ready to pitch within one week of signing, should the signing team want him that quickly.

A one-week timeline would be ambitious, but we’re also in uncharted territory. Last year’s free-agent class was seemingly less prepared for a long wait during the winter, but Boras and Keuchel had a gameplan. Keuchel has reported been throwing 95+-pitch bullpen sessions to remain sharp and ready. There aren’t many top-shelf (and healthy) starting pitchers to sit out nearly half a season.

Keuchel may not literally be ready in a week’s time, but Boras’ comments indicate he’d be ready quickly. For the many teams in need of pitching help, that’s good news. Whether he’d be effective a week out from signing is anybody’s guess.

Yankees a frontrunner for Keuchel

SNY’s Andy Martino termed the Yankees as well-positioned to sign the free agent left-hander. He was careful to mention that other team’s are involved and there’s no contract ready to go, but he’s also not the first person to tie Keuchel to the Yankees. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman similarly wrote about the Yankees’ interest in the left-hander.

Though James Paxton has returned and CC Sabathia is set to do the same Sunday, the Yankees’ rotation depth has thinned with Luis Severino and Jonathan Loaisiga out. J.A. Happ has been homer prone while Domingo German has an innings limit of some kind.

It was previously reported by Newsday’s Erik Boland that the Yankees sent a scout to watch one of Keuchel’s bullpen sessions. They’re not the only team to have seen him pitch, but it’s a good sign of interest in the 31-year-old.

Keuchel likely to sign soon after midnight Monday

Keuchel is expected to sign at some point soon after midnight on Monday, June 3, according to Heyman. That is, not coincidentally, the time when he will no longer be tied to draft-pick compensation.

Heyman underlines the Yankees and Braves as top teams in pursuit of the left-hander while mentioning four other teams. There’s real competition here.

Rays also interested

If the Yankees don’t sign Keuchel, they may have to face him multiple times this year. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote about the Rays’ interest in Keuchel to boost their rotation, which lost Tyler Glasnow to the 60-day IL in early May. Heyman also mentioned the Rays as a possible suitor.

Though they’ve had tremendous results from their pitching staff, the Rays are thin at the moment. Without Glasnow, they’re down to two traditional starters, Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, while using a trio of bulk pitchers tied to openers in Yonny Chirinos, Jalen Beeks and the recently recalled Ryan Yarbrough.

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