As a onetime American League Cy Young winner (2015) who ranks among the majors’ top 20 starters in ERA (3.28) and fWAR (18.2) since his breakout 2014 season, Keuchel entered the winter as the most accomplished rotation piece available. Nevertheless, the soon-to-be 31-year-old has gone without a contract for nearly two months, and has watched several other starters – including newly minted $100MM man Patrick Corbin – ink lucrative pacts.
Both Keuchel and agent Scott Boras are partly responsible for the hurler’s unemployed status, of course, as they’re reportedly seeking a five- to six-year deal worth big money. At the outset of the offseason, MLBTR predicted a four-year, $82MM pact for Keuchel, who, as a qualifying offer recipient, would cost a team more than just a major chunk of cash. Because Keuchel rejected the Astros’ QO, both the Angels and Rangers would give up their second-highest 2019 draft pick and $500K in international bonus pool space to sign him. The Brewers would face a lesser penalty, though, as they’d only have to surrender their third-highest draft choice.
Among Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Texas, the Brewers are arguably the best fit on paper for Keuchel. Milwaukee came within a game of a World Series berth in 2018, but it did so in spite of an uninspiring-looking rotation – one that has since seen Wade Miley reach free agency after a surprisingly effective campaign. The problem is that the Brewers might not have the payroll room to make a headline-grabbing splash on the open market. Meanwhile, having already added starters Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill in free agency, the Angels may be done addressing their rotation this winter, as Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com suggested Thursday. And the Rangers, unlike the Brewers and Angels, are in a rebuild and aren’t targeting a playoff berth in 2019. As such, even though their rotation is in dire need of help, it may not make sense for the Rangers to fervently pursue a high-priced starter – excluding Japanese import Yusei Kikuchi, 27 – over the next year or two.