Astros: An unfortunate prediction; Dallas Keuchel will leave as a free agent after 2018

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: Dallas Keuchel #60 of the Houston Astros throws a pitch during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: Dallas Keuchel #60 of the Houston Astros throws a pitch during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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With Dallas Keuchel’s impending free agency on the horizon, it may be best for both sides if he moves to a new team next season.

Aside from having a stacked rotation, there’s an additional benefit from the Astros’ recent trade for Gerrit Cole. He’ll provide insurance in the event Dallas Keuchel leaves as a free agent after the 2018 season.

Here’s my bold (or not-so-bold) prediction: Keuchel will indeed be playing for another team in 2019.

This is nothing against Keuchel as a player or an individual. He’s been excellent over the past few years and is one of the main reasons why the Astros have enjoyed so much success. As a fan, I have no desire to see him leave. But from a business perspective, it’s all but inevitable.

Astros’ Depth a Key Factor

Barring additional trades, the Astros will still have Cole, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers, Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock for 2019. Top prospect Forrest Whitley should be waiting in the wings as well. There is simply no need for the team to give Keuchel a huge contract.

Plus, the Astros are not big spenders like the Yankees or Dodgers. They can’t afford to extend all of their core players, so they must choose carefully. Extensions for Jose Altuve and George Springer will likely need to come to fruition in the next couple of years, and both will be expensive. Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman will follow.

The Astros can withstand losing Keuchel thanks to their pitching depth. Losing a key position player like Altuve would be much more difficult to stomach. They’re better off investing in their key hitters and keeping that core intact.

An Agent of Change

Let’s not forget that Scott Boras will be representing Keuchel throughout this process. He’s well known for getting maximum dollars for his clients, and the Astros would get no discount. Barring significant injury, some team will pay Keuchel a nine-figure salary. But it shouldn’t be Houston.

Keuchel will be 31 when the 2019 season begins. Boras will undoubtedly seek a deal of at least six or seven years in length at more than $20 million per year. Recently, CTH’s Cody Poage took a deeper look at what Keuchel’s next contract could look like.

I find it hard to see a healthy Keuchel signing a deal shorter than five years and $100 million. More than likely, he will receive something larger than that. Long-term investments to pitchers in their 30s are rarely worth it, and I doubt this would be an exception.

We also shouldn’t expect Keuchel to take less money to remain with the Astros. This is his best – and possibly only – chance for a big payday, and he’s earned the right to test the market. With teams like the Dodgers, Yankees and Giants positioning themselves for spending sprees next offseason, someone may give him $150 million or more. And I wouldn’t blame him for taking it.

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Likewise, I wouldn’t blame the Astros for not giving him that money. With their pitching depth, they’re better off extending a qualifying offer and turning the resulting draft pick into another top prospect.

So, Astros fans, enjoy one more season of Keuchel in Houston. It may just be the last one.

***Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference***

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