10:49am: Twins manager Rocco Baldelli confirmed the signing, tweets Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com. “We’re glad to have him in the organization and to give him an opportunity to go out there and pitch and show all the things that he’s been working on,” said Baldelli.
9:43am: The Twins have agreed to a minor league deal with left-hander Dallas Keuchel, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link). The WME client has recently been working out with Driveline Baseball and, as Driveline director of pitching Chris Langin recently noted (Twitter thread), has restored some of the velocity on his heater and movement on his sinker and revamped sweeper. He’ll presumably wind up with the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate in St. Paul, though he might first require a tune-up at a lower-level affiliate.
The 35-year-old Keuchel’s past two seasons have been a nightmare, as the former AL Cy Young winner was shelled for a 6.35 ERA in 222 2/3 innings between the White Sox, D-backs and Rangers. That includes a particularly calamitous 2022 campaign in which he was tagged for 62 earned runs on a whopping 94 hits and 31 walks in just 60 2/3 frames. Keuchel’s fastball averaged a career-worst 87.8 mph in 2022, and his 10.2% walk rate was his highest since a 10.3% mark as a rookie way back in 2012.
That said, Keuchel had strong results back in 2020 (1.99 ERA in 63 1/3 innings) and from 2014-20 was a high-end starting pitcher for the Astros, Braves and White Sox. During that time, the lefty piled up 1126 1/3 innings of 3.25 ERA ball (3.55 FIP, 3.63 SIERA). Keuchel has long posted below-average strikeout rates but, at his best, will offset them with excellent command and one of the top ground-ball rates in the Majors. Opponents have averaged just an 87.4 mph exit velocity against him since Statcast began tracking it in 2015, and even in his recent disastrous seasons Keuchel was only slightly below average in terms of limiting hard contact.
Certainly, it’s beyond optimistic to expect Keuchel to recapture his 2015 Cy Young form. The Twins would likely be thrilled if the lefty were able to even emerge as a viable back-of-the-rotation starter or perhaps a multi-inning reliever. Langin notes that Keuchel has been sitting 89 mph with his fastball and 88.9 mph with his sinker in workouts — down slightly from peak levels but roughly in line with Keuchel’s 2016-19 seasons, when he posted a 3.77 ERA over 102 starts.
Fortunately for the Twins, they can look at Keuchel as a pure depth option rather than someone they’ll realistically need to turn to before long. Minnesota recently optioned fifth starter Louie Varland to Triple-A, but the expectation is that Kenta Maeda will be returning from the injured list in his place. Sonny Gray, Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober give the Twins a strong top four in their rotation anyhow, and the club is hoping for Chris Paddack to finish off his rehab from Tommy John surgery later this summer as well.
Keuchel will merely add to that stockpile of rotation options. If he looks to be in pre-2021 form in Triple-A, that’ll be a major bonus for the Twins, but if he continues to struggle as he has over the past two seasons, they can move on without feeling they’ve placed a major strain on their rotation depth.