As they seek to bolster their questionable rotation, the Reds are “all over” free agent southpaw Dallas Keuchel, according to a report from Jon Heyman of Fancred. Cincinnati has also reached out to fellow open-market lefty J.A. Happ, per the report.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see if the Reds land one of these targets, but it’s notable enough just to hear of the interest. Keuchel, of course, is one of the top free agents on the market. MLBTR rated him fourth on its top fifty list, predicting a four-year, $82MM pact.
Though he’s plenty accomplished, Keuchel is also nearing his 31st birthday and was not at peak form in 2018. He still got solid results, and generated plenty of weak contact, but also saw big year-over-year drops in his swinging strike rate (10.9% to 8.3%) and groundball rate (66.8% to 53.7%).
At his best, Keuchel gets a few more strikeouts and quite a few more worm-burners. He also has at times been quite tough to take out of the yard; as Heyman notes, that’s an important consideration for a team playing in a bandbox.
The Reds no doubt like the fact that Keuchel and Happ have generally been durable and given a good number of innings over the past several seasons. Keuchel did have some shoulder and neck issues, but worked through them and topped 200 frames for the third time in 2018. Happ is already 36 years of age, but has averaged 155 frames annually dating back to 2011. Both come with risks, of course, but neither seems to have particular health concerns.
Whether either of these or other top free agent hurlers will requite the Reds’ interest remains to be seen. Certainly, the team’s willingness to match or beat the rest of the market will be a deciding factor. It seems, though, that we can generally expect the Reds at least to explore many of the best-available pitchers over the remainder of the winter.