The San Diego Padres will be looking for options at the front-end of the 2019 starting rotation. Dallas Keuchel is a pending free agent and could be a decent option for the Friars. Let’s explore the idea.
The Padres will have some dead money come off the books heading into the 2018 offseason and into the free agency period before the 2019 season. James Shields’ $10 million comes off with a $2 million buyout, Chase Headley’s $13 million contract is done, and because of a trade the Friars avoided paying Brad Hand $6.5 million this coming season.
Plus, Wil Myers’ contract doesn’t get really expensive until 2020. The time might be now for the Padres to go get a big free agent pitcher to bolster a young rotation in need of a leader.
It is not devoid of valuable arms, however.
Dallas Keuchel was a big part of why the Astros became World Series champions in 2017. He earned his second career MLB All-Star bid that year, with a 2.90 ERA and a 141 ERA+. He had a 2.60 ERA in three starts in the ALDS and ALCS before struggling in the World Series.
Keuchel just completed a year in which he saw his ERA elevate to 3.74 while making all 34 of his starts – both numbers would have led the Padres’ rotation this past season. He logged over 200 innings for the third time in his career.
In 2015, Keuchel dominated the American League on his way to winning the Cy Young after a 2.48 ERA, 157 ERA+, and 216 strikeouts in 232 innings. He has been one of most respected lefty pitchers in baseball, even with a bit of an inconsistent career.
He is coming off of a one-year, $13.2 million contract from the Astros. Based on his performance in 2018, he will likely command at least that much in free agency. Spotrac.com has his market value at about $20 million. I imagine that would be too steep for the Padres for the soon-to-be 31-year-old. With a lot of money already thrown in Eric Hosmer’s direction, I imagine the price would need to be lowered if the Padres had a chance, which is not unrealistic.
It’s clear the Padres need a leader in this rotation. Yes, Clayton Richard was a leader of sorts last season, but you want a guy who shows up every day to work and also keeps the team in the game and gives them a chance to win every fifth day. Keuchel might be that guy. Richard certainly was important in the Padres’ clubhouse, but it’s time for the next phase of this rebuild, and for that to happen, the leader of the rotation needs a much better ERA than Richard’s 5.33.
The Cubs and Astros, the two most recent World Series champions (at least for another few weeks) built championship rosters with homegrown hitters, sprinkled with a veteran or two, plus a proven, veteran starter to pull the weight in the rotation. For the Cubs, it was then 30-year-old Jake Arrieta. For the Astros, signing Justin Verlander was one of the best moves, if not the best move the Astros made on their way to a parade in downtown Houston.
In both cases, the teams were relatively young, but needed that proven veteran starter to get over the hump. It’s time to start thinking about what the Padres need to do to compete. “Tanking” is over and losing needs to be over. It’s time to win. Is Dallas Keuchel a bona fide ace? Probably not. However, he is someone with a track record of production, with a Cy Young award and World Series championship under his belt, and that could be just what this crop of young arms need in the Friars’ clubhouse.