Astros speculation: Did Dallas Keuchel say goodbye to Houston?
By Eric Huysman
Dallas Keuchel tells Houston Astros fans that he loves them.
Its only been about 24 hours since the Astros were eliminated from the playoffs by the Red Sox. There are a lot of questions running through Jeff Luhnow’s mind now as he starts planning for the 2019 squad. Several players will become free agents as soon as the World Series is over. Knowing how the Astros set a specific value for any given player, it will be difficult for some of the free agents to return.
Of the six impending free agents, one sticks out as someone who won’t return. They all have a certain likelihood of returning. All we can do is speculate at this time of the year unless someone lets something slip once or twice in this case. Of course, I’m referring to Dallas Keuchel, the former Cy Young Award winner for the Astros in 2015.
He once put the team on his back in the 2015 Wild Card game versus the Yankees.
Before his start during the ALDS versus the Indians, Keuchel couldn’t help but wonder if this was his last start in Houston. This confirmed what many Astros fans suspected, Keuchel did not expect to return in 2019. You would have to imagine that the Astros tried to work out an extension with him, but he was not impressed. Maybe the Astros didn’t consider extending him important knowing his likely price tag.
Yesterday, Keuchel tweeted out, “I love you, Houston.” You will never forget your first MLB team, but sometimes the relationship can become a little strained. We saw this in 2017 when he said the Astros should have made a trade to improve the roster. Then he was supplanted as the ace of the staff.
Maybe that Tweet was Keuchel’s way of telling Astros fans that it’s not them, it’s him. He has nothing but love for Astros fans who supported him through the years, but it’s time to move on.
If this is indeed the end of the road for Keuchel in Houston, it was a good run.
With the Astros, the only MLB team he has pitched for, he had a 76-63 career record with a 3.66 ERA while striking out 945 batters in 1189 1/3 innings pitched. These stats, via Baseball-Reference, have improved from his first two seasons in Houston. He was part of the process, including the 2012 and 2013 seasons when they lost 100+ games. To quote Monty Python, “he got better!”
The rise of Keuchel.
The 2014 season was the year that Keuchel found his way. After being drafted in the 7th round of the 2009 MLB draft, 2014 was the first year he showed the potential of the former Friday Night starter for the University of Arkansas. In college, that is when the top pitcher on the team starts. In 2014, Keuchel reached 200 innings pitched with 12 wins and a 2.93 ERA. After years of a rotating opening day pitcher, Keuchel settled that for a few years.
The next year, Keuchel busted into national recognition after winning the AL Cy Young Award. That year, Keuchel pitched 232 innings with a 20-8 record and a 2.48 ERA while striking out 216 batters. Those were the good ole’ days, but Keuchel was never the same after winning the Cy Young.
Did AJ Hinch overuse his workhorse pitcher that year?
The next two years, the Keuchel struggled to stay healthy. When the Astros acquired Justin Verlander, Keuchel lost his ace status. When Gerrit Cole got off to a great start in 2018, Keuchel was pushed back to the third starter. Some would even say that Charlie Morton or Lance McCullers was better than Keuchel. Don’t forget about Collin McHugh who was moved to the bullpen last offseason. Now you have some young starters on the rise in the minors.
The bottom line is that the Astros have plenty of other options without throwing Keuchel a blank check. Soon, the Astros will have to throw those blank checks to George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman.
The Astros will probably make an offer to him, but nothing compared to what he could get on the open market. According to Sportrac, Keuchel’s market value is $20,642,779. Keuchel said postgame that he would be interested in returning, but he would make a mistake not testing the water.
The Astros are already paying Verlander that and potentially Cole down the road. Keuchel will probably go to a team like the Reds or Brewers who need an ace. Don’t look for the Yankees to be able to afford him. Thanks for the memories if this is goodbye Dallas!