Blue Jays: Why a late run at Dallas Keuchel makes a lot of sense

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 16: Dallas Keuchel #60 of the Houston Astros reacts after retiring the side in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Three of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 16, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 16: Dallas Keuchel #60 of the Houston Astros reacts after retiring the side in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Three of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 16, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

Now that we’re a mere week away from Spring Training and Dallas Keuchel remains unsigned, the Blue Jays should make a serious run at the southpaw starter.

When the Blue Jays signed Freddy Galvis to a free agent contract last week, I figured that would be the end of the MLB contracts they handed out. After a quiet winter, I’ll admit that even that contract caught me by pleasant surprise.

That said, I still expect that Ross Atkins will dip into the bullpen market before Opening Day, especially because there are plenty of useful arms available and the asking prices are dropping pretty rapidly. For example, Jerry Blevins agreed to a MiLB deal with the Oakland A’s on Monday, as did Francisco Liriano with the Pirates. Things aren’t a lot better on the position player side either, as former Blue Jay Curtis Granderson had to settle for a MiLB deal with Miami as well, despite having a productive 2018 season.

When it comes to the Blue Jays, a lot of their financial restraint this winter hasn’t necessarily been for saving money, but rather for building for the future. Ross Atkins and company have maintained that they want to provide opportunity for their young players in 2019 and beyond, and signing a bunch of veterans to occupy playing time doesn’t help to that end, even if there are a lot of bargains out there right now. The strategy does make sense though, even if it requires some patience and understanding.

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However, I do believe there are a few exceptions to the rule still sitting unsigned, and some are more realistic than others. I could go on all day about how the Blue Jays actually make a ton of sense for Bryce Harper (if he’d entertain coming to Canada, that is), but I think most fans of the Jays understand that this isn’t going to happen. The same goes for Manny Machado, who is a less perfect fit in Toronto long-term, but has the type of talent that pretty much any team would make room for on the right contract.

More realistically, the Blue Jays should be seriously entertaining making Dallas Keuchel an offer, if they haven’t already this winter. There were loose rumours tying them to the former Houston Astro starter earlier in the offseason, but obviously nothing came to fruition as he’s still waiting for his next contract.

Keuchel is talented enough that he’s not going to panic and sign some sort of ridiculous bargain, but the assumption is he could be had for less than what the asking price was at the offset of free agency. We don’t know exactly what the ask was, but there were rumours that the southpaw was seeking a contract of five or six years, and north of 100 million. That would make sense as one of the top starters on the market, and someone who arguably comparable to Patrick Corbin, who got six years and 140 million from the Nationals.

His agent, Scott Boras, has never been afraid to take his clients late into the offseason without a contract, and he’s proving that once again with Keuchel and Bryce Harper. However, now that we’re just a week away from when Keuchel is supposed to be reporting and getting to work in a new uniform, I’m willing to bet he’d like to get things done sooner than later. Of course, there could be other teams lurking and waiting for the asking price to drop as well, but many of the interested parties could have moved on by now.

Getting back to the Blue Jays, Keuchel could be a solid fit for the immediate, and the longer term outlook. Let’s say he gets a four year contract with an option for a fifth year, that would take him through his age 35 season, when he should still be productive. He just turned 31 last month, and while he’s on the wrong side of 30, he’s never been one to rely on his fastball velocity anyway, so he could be the type to age gracefully. A four or five year deal would also help bridge the gap between Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, and the next generation of Blue Jays pitchers that  are on the way like Nate Pearson, Eric Pardinho and others. Sanchez and Stroman each have just two years of contract control in Toronto, and are no guarantee to stick around for the long haul at this point.

Speaking of Stroman, he was the subject of heavy trade rumours this offseason, and it’s possible the front office could still explore the idea this spring, or throughout the year. Sanchez also came up in rumours this winter, albeit to a lesser degree, and if he manages to stay healthy he could be a trade candidate as well. In that scenario, there’s an argument to be made the the front office could trade one or both of the high-potential starters at some point this year and replace their production with Keuchel. He’d only cost them money after all, and Sanchez and Stroman could bring back a decent return if they pitch to their potential in the first half.

There’s also the fact that the Blue Jays don’t have a lot in the way of contract commitments after this season, as they only have guaranteed contracts on Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and the last of Troy Tulowitzki‘s buyout to worry about next year. There are plenty of useful players who will be arbitration eligible of course, but as far as hard commitments going forward, there’s all kinds of room in the budget to fit someone like Keuchel.

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It remains to be seen how many other teams are interested, but right now it feels like a legitimate contract offer could get things done. For the Blue jays, there are a lot of reasons why making a late-offseason run at Keuchel makes a great deal of sense.