Dallas Keuchel Rumors

AL West Notes: Keuchel, Newcomb, Profar, Stearns

In light of recent reports about preliminary extension talks between the Astros and ace Dallas Keuchel, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards examines the impact that a potential Cy Young Award would have on Keuchel’s arbitration case. Keuchel already has a very good chance at breaking the outdated record for a first-year arbitration-eligible pitcher (Dontrelle Willis’ $4.35MM record is, as Edwards notes, about a decade old). However, as Edwards explains, the arb process treats award-winners differently, and securing the Cy Young Award could boost his first-year arb price even further. As such, taking home the hardware for being the AL’s best pitcher in 2015, if it happens — and Keuchel indeed has a strong case — could make it difficult for team and player to agree to a fair price to put on Keuchel’s three arbitration seasons, let alone on his free agent years.

A few more items pertaining to the AL West…

  • In his latest Prospect Pipeline Inbox column, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo kicks off by answering the question of whether or not Angels southpaw Sean Newcomb could pitch in the Majors in 2016. Mayo explains that while he wouldn’t have thought so prior to the 2015 campaign, Newcomb has impressively pitched at three levels this season, showing a consistent propensity for strikeouts and ground-balls and thereby placing himself on the fast track to the Majors. While the former No. 15 overall pick (2014) needs to hone his command and improve upon his 4.8 BB/9 rate, Mayo does feel that Newcomb is capable of reaching the Majors in the second half of the 2016 season.
  • Jurickson Profar played in his first regular-season game since Sept. 27, 2013 today, writes Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. The former No. 1 overall prospect served as the designated hitter for the Rangers‘ Class-A affiliate today. He’ll continue to rehab there but only in a DH capacity for the remainder of this season. Profar, still just 22 years of age, has missed the past two seasons due to a pair of torn shoulder muscles. He was a consensus Top 10 prospect heading into the 2012 season before emerging as the game’s No. 1 prospect (per Baseball America, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus) heading into the 2013 campaign. The Rangers will hope to have him healthy again in 2016.
  • As teams trend toward the hiring of younger, analytically savvy general managers, Astros assistant GM David Stearns’ name could become a target, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. While Drellich notes that it’s perhaps a bit early for Stearns to garner serious consideration from other clubs, GM Jeff Luhnow does feel that his lieutenant has the chops to handle a GM role down the line. “There’s several people in our organization that have GM potential, and David’s one of them,” Luhnow said. “I expect over the coming years, as we have success, they’ll get opportunities at least to interview.”

Astros, Dallas Keuchel Have Discussed Long-Term Deal

Dallas Keuchel will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and is under team control through at least the 2018 season, but the lefty tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that his agent, Darek Braunecker of Frontline Athlete Management, has discussed a multi-year deal with Houston. For his part, Keuchel is very open to remaining in Houston long-term. As he tells Drellich:

“[Houston] is all I’ve known, and it’s where I want to be. I know we’re in a great position for the next probably five, 10 years… it’s all about winning. Me personally, it’s not about the dollar amount. … With that being said, it’s got to be something that’s fair and that’s right for both parties. I’m not trying to break the bank. I’m just out here to have fun and pitch and do the best I can.”

The 27-year-old Keuchel had a breakout season in 2014 and has emerged as one of the American League’s top pitchers with an elite 2015 season that features a 2.37 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 63.1 percent ground-ball rate in 178 2/3 innings. As Drellich notes, comparable pitchers (at least, in terms of service time) such as Wade Miley and Lance Lynn signed away their three arbitration seasons last winter for $19.25MM and $22MM, respectively. Keuchel, however, has a much stronger two-year platform heading into arbitration and could surpass both of those figures for his arb years.

It stands to reason that the Astros would want to secure at least one, if not two or three free agent years for Keuchel, which, in my mind, would need to be valued in the $15-17MM range. However, from the player’s point of view, signing away precious free agent years isn’t as desirable, even if it’s for a relatively sizable sum. Keuchel’s best chance at a $100MM+ contract would be to hit the open market heading into his age-31 season, as he’s currently projected to do. He also has a strong arb case this winter based on his excellent 2014-15 work, so he can reasonably bank on a pair of life-changing paydays in the next two offseasons even if his 2016 campaign doesn’t go as well as 2014-15. Keuchel’s comments about not breaking the bank do offer some hope, however, that he could look to set some kind of precedent for extensions for players with three to four years of service time, as opposed to maximizing his arb salaries and signing a nine-figure contract in the 2018-19 offseason.

There’s also some logic behind the scenario in which Keuchel signs a three-year deal that locks in only his arb seasons. Keuchel would secure his first fortune and still be positioned to hit the free agent heading into his age-31 season. The Astros, in turn, would gain cost certainty over a pitcher whose arb prices could escalate at an abnormally high rate due to his status as one of the American League’s best arms and a potential Cy Young candidate.

Drellich also spoke to right-hander Collin McHugh, who said that he, too, is interested in signing a long-term deal with Houston, although no talks have taken place between the Astros and McHugh’s agents at Moye Sports Associates. McHugh, however, has one less year of service time and won’t be arbitration eligible until next winter. McHugh, another somewhat surprising breakout pitcher in the Astros’ rotation, has pitched to a 3.36 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 in 313 2/3 innings since being claimed off waivers in the 2013-14 offseason.

Also of note, Drellich reports that the Astros plan to make a run at re-signing Houston native and July trade acquisition Scott Kazmir this winter, though there have unsurprisingly been no talks at this point, as Kazmir is intent on testing the market.


Quick Hits: Hahn, Royals, Luhnow, Cotts

The White Sox didn’t make any noise on deadline day but things could’ve been much different had a proposed three-team trade been finalized, GM Rick Hahn told reporters (including ESPN Chicago’s Sahadev Sharma).  The deal “would’ve wound up netting us such a [future] piece, a guy who’d been a target for a while,” Hahn said, though talks fizzled about two hours before the 3pm CT deadline.  While no trades were made, Hahn felt some progress was made in negotiations and “hopefully laid the groundwork for some future deals,” while also noting that the ChiSox will explore the August waiver wire for any possible moves.

Here are some items from around baseball as we wrap up an extremely busy week here at MLB Trade Rumors…

  • The Royals also didn’t make any moves yesterday as the team was seemingly hamstrung by an unwillingness to either trade its young players or (perhaps more pressingly) add payroll, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes.
  • The Astros were willing to discuss trading their young starters and indeed sent Jarred Cosart to Miami.  Beyond that, the club couldn’t find any satisfactory offers for Collin McHugh or Dallas Keuchel, GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters, including The Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich and MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. “Probably Keuchel was the one that we received the most inquiries on…we weren’t willing to move Keuchel,” Luhnow said.  It seemed as if Luhnow cared for the McHugh offers even less, saying other teams apparently “felt like just because we picked him up off of waivers we might get rid of him for cheap.”
  • The Rangers have spoken with left-hander Neal Cotts about a new contract for next season, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.  Cotts earned $2.2MM in 2014, his final arbitration-eligible year, and he’ll be a free agent this winter.  Grant believes this new contract could “likely be a club-friendly deal.”  Given that Cotts is 34 and has a checkered injury history, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cotts look for security over a higher dollar figure.
  • Also from Grant’s piece, he notes that while the Rangers are suffering through a disastrous season, they could quickly rebound next year.
  • Looking at teams who did and didn’t make key moves, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports lists the 15 winners and eight losers of the trade deadline period.
  • Big TV contracts are seen as huge boosts to team revenues, yet as Fangraphs’ Wendy Thurm observes, broadcaster disputes have left Padres, Astros and Dodgers fans unable to watch their teams play on local TV while the Nationals and Orioles seem poised for a major legal battle over MASN’s broadcasting fees.
  • The Tigers‘ acquisition of David Price drew all the headlines yesterday, but the team’s need for a left-handed reliever went unaddressed at the deadline, MLB.com’s Jason Beck points out.


Astros Fielding Interest In Cosart, Not Shopping Keuchel

12:03pm: The Marlins and Rangers are two teams that are checking in on Cosart, Rosenthal reports (Twitter links).

9:59am: The Astros are “very busy” taking calls on righty Jarred Cosart, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Houston has taken lefty Dallas Keuchel off the market, however, though it always seemed a longshot for him to be dealt.

Houston has been said to be willing to listen on its young starting pitching, which has featured some better-than-expected performances. Of course, the biggest surprises have comes from Keuchel and Collin McHugh. Unsurprisingly, the Astros appear more hesitant to deal either of those arms.

But Cosart, 24, has turned in a solid season in his own right. He owns a 4.41 ERA through 116 1/3 frames with 5.8 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9 and a sterling 56.5% groundball rate. That has been good for a 4.02 FIP, 4.28 xFIP, and 4.42 SIERA — hardly ace-level numbers, to be sure, but useful and promising enough given his age. Of course, much of Cosart’s value lies in the fact that he will not even be eligible for arbitration until 2017.

 


Astros Open To Trading Keuchel, McHugh, Cosart

TUESDAY, 7:11pm: Houston is reluctant to deal Keuchel, a GM tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, who discusses the club’s decisions on whether to deal arms that come with future control. The Orioles could be a fit for the emergent southpaw if the Astros are willing to part with him, sources tell Drellich.

1:18pm: The Astros are getting increased calls about their pitchers after yesterday’s comments from Luhnow, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (on Twitter). The goal remains the same, says McTaggart: MLB-ready offense.

MONDAY, 6:21pm: When asked about prospective deals Houston GM Jeff Luhnow said there’s “nothing that feels close” at this time, tweets Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The GM went on to say (link), “There’s conversations happening and there have been for the past week multiple conversations happening every day.”

5:32pm: The Astros have previously said that they weren’t inclined to move left-hander Dallas Keuchel or right-hander Collin McHugh, both of whom are in the midst of breakout seasons, but Luhnow softened his stance when speaking to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (12:23 timestamp in the update window). The Houston GM tells Rosenthal that the lack of available starting pitching has prompted him to consider dealing Keuchel, McHugh, or right-hander Jarred Cosart:

“We do seem to have an excess of pretty good young starters so we wouldn’t rule anything out. We’d have to get back a big-league piece, preferably a bat, in a package that makes sense for the future and present.”

The 26-year-old Keuchel can be controlled through the 2018 season, while McHugh, 27, and Cosart, 24, are controllable through the 2019 campaign. Keuchel and McHugh, in particular, have had surprisingly strong seasons, with Keuchel posting a 3.11 ERA in 127 1/3 innings, and McHugh notching a 3.45 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 88 2/3 innings (10.4 K/9).

Keuchel was Houston’s seventh-round selection in the 2009 draft, while McHugh was claimed off waivers (Houston had tried to trade for him in 2013), and Cosart was acquired in the Hunter Pence deal back in 2011. None of three are eligible for arbitration after the season. Keuchel will be arb-eligible following the 2015 season, while Cosart and McHugh are eligible following the 2016 season.


Rosenthal On Rangers, Cubs, Jays, Utley, Detwiler

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via two videos on FOX Sports:

  • In light of Prince Fielder‘s injury, the Rangers could pursue free agent Kendrys Morales, although they will not do so until after the draft, since that would require them to lose a pick. If they fall out of contention, they could trade Alex Rios or Joakim Soria, either of whom could become free agents if the Rangers don’t pick up their 2015 options. They could also consider dealing Elvis Andrus, given their depth of young middle infield talent.
  • When the Cubs and Blue Jays discussed a Jeff Samardzija deal this offseason, the Cubs asked for Drew Hutchison plus either Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman, Rosenthal reports. Especially in retrospect, that would have been a steep price to pay — Hutchison has been terrific in the Jays’ rotation so far this year, and while Sanchez has struggled with walks at Double-A New Hampshire, Stroman continues to look like a top prospect. The Jays are not likely to pursue Samardzija again this summer.
  • All signs indicate that the Phillies will not trade Chase Utley: Utley can veto any trade, he signed an extension last August, and GM Ruben Amaro tells Rosenthal that an Utley deal isn’t going to happen.
  • The Astros are not interested in trading pitchers Dallas Keuchel or Collin McHugh, both 26-year-old pitchers who are having surprisingly strong seasons in Houston’s starting rotation.
  • The Nationals could trade Ross Detwiler, a potential starter who’s currently in their bullpen. He’s currently earning $3MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility. (Detwiler is currently struggling with a 5.24 ERA with 13 strikeouts and 13 walks in 22 1/3 innings. That means the Nationals aren’t likely to get much for him.)

AL West Links: Rangers, Tepesch, Blanks, Sipp, McHugh

The surprising outbreak of injuries to Rangers pitchers has forced GM Jon Daniels to turn his attention from an underperforming offense to the gaping holes in the rotation, writes MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. Texas will rely on Colby Lewis, Nick Tepesch, Robbie Ross and Nick Martinez to fill in behind ace Yu Darvish for the time being, with Scott Baker representing an alternative as Joe Saunders and Derek Holland mend. Daniels’ preference is to remain in-house, writes Sullivan, who also briefly notes that the Rangers have scouted Kendrys Morales to help the offense, but don’t want to meet his asking price.

Here are some more links pertaining to the Rangers’ pitching woes and the rest of the AL West…

  • Over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron compares injured Rangers lefty Martin Perez to his likely replacement — Nick Tepesch. Cameron points out that despite Perez’s prospect status and the perception that Tepesch doesn’t have as much ceiling, the two have had remarkably similar results in their short careers. Tepesch’s ERA looks worse due to a high BABIP with runner in scoring position, but aside from that, they compare favorably. While Tepesch’s numbers have come in a smaller sample, his recent work at Triple-A and his MLB track record cause the ZiPS and Steamer projection systems to project that he’ll be as good or better than Perez over the rest of the season.
  • Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area was among the reporters to speak with Athletics GM Billy Beane about his acquisition of Kyle Blanks. The A’s were looking for a right-handed bat that could capably play both first base and the outfield, and Beane feels that Blanks fits that bill “exactly,” adding that “there aren’t many out there.” As Stiglich notes, Tommy John surgery and shoulder surgery have slowed what once looked to be a promising career for Blanks. Said Beane: He was a pretty highly thought of prospect coming through the minors. It looked like he was going to be that guy in the majors until injuries derailed him.”
  • The Astros have gotten big contributions from lefty Tony Sipp and right-hander Collin McHugh in the season’s early stages, but Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports that the team’s first attempts to acquire each player failed. The Astros pursued Sipp this offseason and made an offer before he elected to sign with the Padres, and GM Jeff Luhnow told Drellich he tried to acquire McHugh from the Mets and Rockies in trades last season.
  • Within that same piece, Luhnow discussed the early success of left-hander Dallas Keuchel, which has come as no surprise to him. Each member of the Astros front office made a “pick to click” during Spring Training this year, writes Drellich, and Luhnow’s was Keuchel, and the GM certainly makes it sound like Keuchel is viewed as a long-term rotation piece. He’s never been handed a job … I think after this year he will put himself in a position where that’s no longer a question.”