As January comes to a close, former Astros’ starter Dallas Keuchel is still unsigned.
The seemingly never-ending hot stove season continues to drag on. One of the biggest names still out there is former Astros’ lefty Dallas Keuchel, whose market seems to not have materialized yet. With the Astros in need of a veteran presence in the rotation, could a reunion be in the works?
It’s possible, and the team (and owner Jim Crane) still has interest. But it’s going to take a little more time and a few more dominoes will have to fall for that to take place. Here’s a look at where things stand.
Bigger “Phish” to Fry
The main thing holding up Keuchel’s market is that Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned. The primary team that might be willing to spend big on Keuchel is also trying to sign Harper and/or Machado: the Phillies.
Philly is a clear match for Keuchel on paper. They have a need in the rotation, as they were in on Patrick Corbin before he signed with Washington. They also have plenty of money to spend, making them the team best suited to meet Keuchel’s asking price. But they likely won’t move on Keuchel while Harper and Machado remain unsigned.
For one, there seems to be little competition for Keuchel’s services at this time. Also, the Phillies haven’t ruled out signing both Harper and Machado, which would take them out of the running for Keuchel. It’s unlikely, but it’s at least theoretically possible.
Philly could also be a match for closer Craig Kimbrel, so they’ll have to figure out which of these four players they can/want to sign. It could be that many of these dominoes fall quickly once the first one goes, but we’re all still waiting as February nears.
Other Suitors Limited
Other teams with rotation needs have addressed them elsewhere. The Nationals signed Corbin and Anibal Sanchez, the Yankees added James Paxton and re-signed J.A. Happ, and the Red Sox brought back Nathan Eovaldi. The Reds filled their needs via trade, and most other teams with rotation needs won’t be willing to spend big on Keuchel at this point.
One potential wild card is the Angels. While they have made some low-cost moves to bolster their staff, Keuchel would be a huge boost for them. The question remains as to whether they’d open the checkbook to this extent, but there may be a big impetus to win while Mike Trout is still in Anaheim.
There are some other purely speculative fits, but all have question marks. The Twins could choose to grab this window of opportunity with the Indians taking a step back and the rest of their division rebuilding. The Padres have shown a willingness to spend and could move for Keuchel if they strike out on Machado and J.T. Realmuto.
The Brewers have a need, as do the Athletics. But for all four of these teams, signing Keuchel would require making a big expenditure that seems unlikely. Most rebuilding teams simply aren’t willing to pony up the money (and a draft pick) for a top free agent, so the options are limited.
Houston Reunion Remains Possible
It’s not hard to fathom Keuchel’s market cratering. The Phillies could spend their money elsewhere, and other suitors could fail to materialize. In that situation, the Astros could be in position to bring him back for 2019.
In all likelihood, the Astros wouldn’t be interested in a four or five year deal. I could see Keuchel accepting a one-year deal for slightly more than the qualifying offer, similar to what Yasmani Grandal did with Milwaukee. That would allow him to try free agency again after 2019 without draft pick compensation attached.
The next few weeks will be interesting, to say the least, as Spring Training approaches. With so many top players still unsigned, a lot remains up in the air for Keuchel.