Dallas Keuchel is the top remaining starter on the free-agent market, and though the New Year is nearly upon us, he and agent Scott Boras are still seeking a lofty five-year contract, tweets Jon Morosi of MLB.com. The Phillies, according to Morosi, have been in pursuit of Keuchel but aren’t willing to offer him a five-year deal. Two weeks ago, Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com had a similar report regarding the Nationals’ interest in Keuchel, writing at the time that the Nats were “leery of giving him the five- or six-year deal he seeks.”
Perhaps the notion of a six-year deal has fallen to the wayside, but even a five-year pact for Keuchel would represent somewhat of a surprise. MLBTR predicted a four-year deal worth $82MM at the outset of free agency, and to this point there are more reports of teams being wary regarding his asking price than of those strongly pursuing the 2015 AL Cy Young winner. Beyond the Phillies and Nationals, the Reds have also been prominently connected to Keuchel, but recent indications are that they’d be reluctant to meet his asking price. The fact that Cincinnati has already added both Alex Wood and Tanner Roark likely lessens their urgency to add a high-profile free agent, as well.
In addition to those three teams, Keuchel has been tied to the Angels, Brewers, Rangers and Padres over the past couple of weeks. He was also linked to the Braves and Blue Jays earlier in the offseason, although those reports were contested fairly quickly.
The Phillies, though, have been previously tied to Keuchel, and it seems there’s still some interest on their part if the asking price eventually comes down. In many ways, it’s a scenario reminiscent of last winter’s Jake Arrieta saga, in which the Phillies were frequently connected to the right-hander (also a Scott Boras client) throughout the winter but only agreed to terms with Arrieta once his asking price dropped to three guaranteed years. Keuchel is a year younger now than Arrieta was last winter, so speculatively speaking, perhaps they’d be a willing to bring in Keuchel on a four-year term — thus guaranteeing his salaries through age 34, just as they did with Arrieta.
While much of the Phillies’ offseason has centered around Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, upgrading the rotation is nonetheless a priority for GM Matt Klentak (as evidenced by Philadelphia’s unsuccessful pursuit of Corbin). Right-hander Aaron Nola broke out as a legitimate No. 1 starter and finished third in NL Cy Young voting this past season, and Arrieta gives the Phillies a solid veteran to follow him in the rotation. Beyond that pairing, the trio of Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez has shown promise at times but still lacks experience. There’s also been longstanding speculation that Velasquez’s eventual home may be in the bullpen rather than the rotation.