4:59pm: The Astros have made multiple offers to Keuchel, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter), including both one and two-year scenarios.
10:26am: The Astros are still in touch with free-agent lefty Dallas Keuchel about a potential return to Houston, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). ESPN’s Buster Olney hears similarly, tweeting this morning that the two sides have talked recently but, as of last night, were not close to agreeing to a deal. Heyman notes that the Phillies remain interested on a short-term pact, while MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand wrote Tuesday that Keuchel is still seeking a multi-year pact.
Houston currently has Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Collin McHugh and Wade Miley penciled into the top four spots in the rotation, with Brad Peacock and Framber Valdez vying for the fifth spot in camp (a rotation battle recently explored by The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan). Re-signing Keuchel would push Peacock back into the multi-inning relief role in which he excelled last season. Beyond that, though, bringing Keuchel back into the mix would address the looming rotation void facing the Astros beyond the current season. Each of Verlander, Cole, McHugh and Miley will be a free agent following the 2019 season. Houston has top prospect Forrest Whitley looming in Triple-A and will ideally get Lance McCullers Jr. back from Tommy John surgery in 2020, but the absence of even a single current member of the rotation on the books in 2020 does lead to some longer-term uncertainty.
Keuchel, 31, may not be the ace-caliber arm that he was when he took home the American League Cy Young Award in 2015, but he’s still very clearly a solid starter who’d improve just about any rotation in the Majors. Slowed a bit by neck and back injuries in 2016-17 — he still made 49 starts over those two seasons — Keuchel once again crossed the 200-inning threshold in 2018. Last season, he tossed 204 2/3 frames of 3.74 ERA ball with 6.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.79 HR/9 and a 53.7 percent ground-ball rate. Even excluding his pair of sub-3.00 ERA campaigns in 2014-15 (and that 2015 Cy Young nod), Keuchel has worked to a 3.77 ERA in 518 2/3 innings over the past three years.
Whether his lofty asking price has dropped to the point where the Astros would consider re-signing their homegrown lefty still isn’t clear, though recent talks between the two sides suggest that Houston is hardly closed off to the general concept. Re-signing Keuchel wouldn’t cost the Astros a current draft pick, but it’d prevent them from receiving the compensatory draft selection they’d receive if they allowed him to sign with another club.