Houston Astros: A theory on why only Dallas Keuchel got a qualifying offer

Dallas Keuchel formerly of the Houston Astros (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Dallas Keuchel formerly of the Houston Astros (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros have tagged Dallas Keuchel for a qualifying offer of $17.9 million for 2019. Why him? Let’s delve into the franchise’s reasoning.

Houston Astros fans — it’s early November and this team is already working on making necessary moves to make this team contender going into 2019.   The Houston Astros have seven free agents on the docket for the upcoming season and it’s sort of a puzzle to how find a medium to bring some of those guys back but yet still have the impact they’ve had season-over-season.

This year’s free agency class is as follows:  Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Brian McCann, Evan Gattis, Tony Sipp and Martin Maldonado.

Although many would like to see the entire class brought back, it’s just not feasible as some tweaks have to be made in order to get better.  Change is necessary, especially in the uber-competitive environment of Major League Baseball.

The most important quandaries for this team will be trying to bring back two of their top free agents in Gonzalez and Keuchel.

Yesterday, the Houston Astros tagged Keuchel for a qualifying offer of $17.9 million for next season and didn’t offer it to anybody else.


The Houston Astros feel that Keuchel would provide a better return on investment regardless of what he decides to do.

By the way, what are Keuchel’s options?  He has until Nov. 12 to decide if he wants to accept the qualifying offer — it’d be a one-year deal for $17.9 million — or decline it and head out to the free agency market.  The team can still negotiate with Keuchel if he becomes a free agent but they’ll have to get in line with a list of suitors for his services.

With Gonzalez’s versatility giving him an immense amount of value for a utility guy, many wondered why he wasn’t given a qualifying offer.

Here’s my theory.

As I mentioned, the Houston Astros feel that they can get the highest value for Keuchel, whatever he decides to do.  If Keuchel walks, then the Houston Astros would be rewarded compensatory picks that could possibly be in the earlier rounds.


A new provision in collective bargaining agreement allows non-payers of the luxury tax to still get an opportunity to bolster their rosters with high draft picks.  Dependent on how much Keuchel is offered from another team, the value of the pick will increase with compensation with $50 million or more in multi-year deal allowing teams to score the highest-ranked compensatory picks.

The rank of the picks also hinges on if the team participated in the MLB’s revenue sharing initiative to which I’d doubt because of the team’s success and multiple sources of ancillary revenue, particularly the lucrative television pact they have with AT&T Sportsnet.

The Houston Astros $182.4 million spend on salaries this season was way below this season’s luxury tax threshold of $197 million so getting a high pick for Keuchel is a certainty if he decides to walk.

When you look at the top three lefty starters in the game today with earnings totaling $557.5 million over the life of their contracts, there’s no question that Keuchel will get a piece of that pie.

Clayton Kershaw just inked a three-year, $93 million extension after completing a seven-year, $215 million deal.  David Price is toward the midpoint of a seven-year, $217 million deal he signed back in 2016 and Chris Sale is going into the last season of a five-year, $32.5 million contract.  The Boston Red Sox have not yet talked to him about an extension but it will likely be a massive one, considering the team’s outcome of the 2018 season.

With Keuchel having high-priced agent Scott Boras representing him, there’s no question that this is what he’s whispering into Keuchel’s ear.

But the decision is on Keuchel and once he lets them know what he wants to do, then it will be a free for all to put this roster together, especially when the Winter Meetings commence Dec. 13-15 in Las Vegas.

It’s possible that the Houston Astros will come back to the bargaining table for Marwin but are

More from House of Houston

being bullish on not talking with him until Keuchel’s situation is settled.

It’s clearly obvious that they value a left-handed pitcher more than a utility player to which their first move of the off season would indicate as such.

But the numbers never lie — you can use Ben Zobrist‘s four-year, $56 million contract as the definitive to what the highest-paid utility players are making.  I honestly think MarGo could fetch that amount, possibly a bit less depending on what the need is.  But quite frankly, there’s always a need for a guy like him and teams will make room for a talent like his.

So the situation is real — the Houston Astros feel they can wait on Marwin and have him go look for offers and then come back to the negotiating table, if he wants to, especially if Keuchel decides to march into free agency.

I think that the franchise genuinely wants to bring both Keuchel and Gonzalez back but are strategically making these moves to cover their own tracks as well.  It’s actually terrific business acumen to do it this way.

What will Keuchel decide to do?  We’ll have to see before Nov. 12 as his decision will affect how this team will shape this roster for 2019!

Next. The five most important players of the 2018 season. dark

Keuchel, 30, posted a 12-11 record, a 3.74 ERA, while tossing 153 strikeouts, allowing 85 earned runs, a decent 1.31 WHIP and good 3.69 FIP through 204.2 innings pitched in 2018.

Gonzalez, 29, had a slash line of .247/.324/.409 along with 16 homers and 68 ribbies through 552 plate appearances and 145 games in 2018.  He also carved out a .333/.389/.576 line in this past postseason.