Houston Astros Rumors: Slow market could lead to a Dallas Keuchel return

Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The free agent market for Dallas Keuchel has been pretty slow so far. This could lead to his return to the Houston Astros, let’s take a look.

The Houston Astros left the 2018 season with arguably the best starting rotation in all of baseball. The things these men were able to accomplish individually and as a unit was simply astounding. From top to bottom, this rotation was full of studs that could take over any given game.

Justin Verlander entered the season as the team’s best pitcher and frontline ace. He did not disappoint and put up arguably the best season of his career. He struck out 290 batters in 254 innings with a 2.52 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. Gerrit Cole was the big offseason acquisition but quickly surpassed any expectation. He struck out 276 batters in 200.1 innings with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP, also one of the best seasons of his career. Both guys were top five Cy Young finishers.

Behind them, the team would trot out Charlie Morton who continued a career revival in Houston after playing the role of hero in the 2017 World Series. He struck out 201 batters in 167 innings and was solid across the board. There was also Lance McCullers who was as impressive always before getting hurt in August. Josh James and Framber Valdez held this rotation together during injuries as well.

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Then, there was the longest tenured pitcher on the Houston Astros. A guy that had seen it all with this team, the terrible 100+ loss teams all the way to the World Series championship this past season. Dallas Keuchel has seen a similar arc to his career. He had some miserable seasons at the beginning of his career only to win a Cy Young in 2015.

2016 saw a big drop off in production leading everyone to believe that his Cy Young win was a fluke but his 2017 season proved that theory wrong with a strong resurgence in what would be the team’s World Series season. With all of the roster turnover between Keuchel’s rookie season and these past two years of 100+ win seasons, Keuchel has been there. He’s been the glue and culture builder that has allowed this team to be on the verge of a dynasty.

But, after all of that, the Houston Astros find themselves with three holes in their starting rotation after that vaunted 2018 rotation. McCullers is down after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Morton signed a two-year contract to pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays, and Keuchel hasn’t seemed likely to return.

Keuchel has been linked to plenty of teams this offseason, from the Yankees and Nationals to the Phillies and Reds. It seemed he would have no shortage of options and that he would get paid the long-term money he deserves after some great years in Houston.

But, there haven’t been any concrete rumors on where he would end up going while some of the teams he has been linked to have continued to fill their rotations with other options like Patrick Corbin and James Paxton.

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This isn’t something new that is happening to Keuchel, a pitcher on the wrong side of thirty can be hard pressed to find the years and money he wants in free agency. Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta sat on the market for a long time last offseason with teams not really wanting to budge on price points. They were both 31 during that offseason, just like Keuchel will be in a few days.

Darvish was finally able to get both the years and money, 6 years $126 million, from the Cubs when he signed. However, he got hurt only 40 innings into his 2018 campaign and never saw the field after that. Even prior to the injury that knocked him out, he looked nowhere near deserving of the deal he got. That’s not great news for Keuchel.

Though, Arrieta could be a closer comparison for what Keuchel is working through this offseason. Both guys struggled in a big way to start their prospective careers before finally really figuring it out in 2015 when they both won their Cy Youngs. Since then, both guys have had periods of struggle and both have also exuded dominance all the while dealing with some more minor injuries.

When Arrieta finally signed, it was for three years at $75 million for the life of the contract. Not a bad deal but I’m sure Arrieta wanted more years than what he ended up getting from the Phillies. Arrieta and Keuchel are both represented by Scott Boras who is known to drive a hard bargain for his clients as well so, the situation could get even more similar.

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Arrieta’s market developed slowly and so far so is Keuchel’s. He’s been linked to nearly every contender and even some non-contenders just like Arrieta was but no one seems willing, quite yet, to take the plunge and pay the man. Keuchel isn’t flashy and seems to always have a least one few game stretch where he struggles but he is solid the rest of the season. He’s worth money and years but he may not be able to get what he wants.

That being said, his slow market could very well lead to a return to the Houston Astros. The Astros are hesitant to give him the years and money but no one knows what he brings to the table more than them. Keuchel rejected his qualifying offer earlier this offseason but it stands to reason he could be brought back for similar money for a year or two to increase his resume a little bit more before cashing out for one final big contract.

A deal like this could be in the Houston Astros best interests as well as Keuchel’s best interest. For the Astros, you return a solid innings-eater starter your entire team knows to plug a hole he created in the rotation. For Keuchel, you continue to build your value for a team that has legitimate World Series aspirations. At the end of the day, this reunion could make the most sense.

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For his career, Keuchel has tossed 1,189.1 innings for the Houston Astros. In that, he’s won 74 games, had a 3.66 ERA, struck out 945 batters, and put together a 1.25 WHIP.