Is it possible the Toronto Blue Jays have a legitimate interest in free agent starter Dallas Keuchel or is this just another dead-end offseason rumour from someone hoping for a Christmas miracle?
The Blue Jays are in desperate need of a bonafide front of the rotation starter who is capable of eating up innings especially with the health concerns around Aaron Sanchez. Keuchel tossed 204.2 innings last season for the Houston Astros and has accomplished the feat in three of the past five seasons.
Keuchel’s ability to induce groundball outs would play well at the homer-friendly Rogers Centre. Last season the 30-year old managed to induce a groundball 53.7 percent of the time and led the league in 2017 with an impressive 66.8% clip. In 2018, Keuchel was only tagged by the longball every 0.8 times per nine innings.
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The Blue Jays have the financial flexibility to absorb a Keuchel-like contract especially in 2020 when Russell Martin is officially off the books. MLB Trade Rumors predicted that Keuchel will command a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $84 million dollars. Conversely, the pegged J.A. Happ around three years and $48 million.
Keuchel is an established veteran starter with a winning pedigree that could definitely anchor a young pitching staff like the Blue Jays. The hurler’s trophy shelf is comprised of a World Championship in 2017, Cy Young award in 2015 and four Gold Gloves along with two All-Star appearances throughout his 7-year career.
Will his age be a factor as the decline after 30 creeps into play? Keuchel will turn 31 in January. The Blue Jays may have to add a fifth-year to sweeten the pot and separate themselves from Keuchel’s other suitors, especially as coming north of the border for a few lean years may not appeal to the veteran.
Keuchel is going to get paid one way or the other and his agent Scott Boras will see his client is well compensated for his services. Boras went on record earlier this offseason ripping the Blue Jays for not investing in quality talent contributing to their drastic decline in attendance.
"“Toronto is a wonderful city, it’s been a great franchise, they’ve drawn three million fans,” Boras said. “They’ve lost near a third of their fan base due to the Blue Flu of not bringing attractive players that their fans find interesting to their market."
Seeing Keuchel turned down the qualifying offer from the Astros, there will be draft-pick compensation attached to the southpaw. This may be a sticking point for a team in a rebuild attempting to stock up on young controllable talent.
Last season Keuchel earned $13.2 million going 12-11 with a 3.74 earned run average and a 6.7 SO/9 rate in a league-leading 34 starts. The left-hander also ranked atop the American League in hits surrendering 211 while compiling a 2.6 WAR down from his 2017 total of 3.9.
In closing, I personally do not see the Jays making this kind of investment in a player in their current rebuild phase. Heck, if the Jays are going to throw $80+ million at Keuchel, they may as well complete the Christmas miracle and throw an extra $40 million and land the younger Patrick Corbin. Time will tell but J.A. Happ is probably a more realistic option to bring back into the fold.