The last couple days are about to tick off the 2018 calendar and many fans of the Philadelphia Phillies remain underwhelmed by the team’s off-season moves thus far.
This Hot Stove season opened with the promise of a new impact bat for the middle of the order in either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Those players remain available, and one could still land in Philadelphia.
The lineup now feels more solid. Given health, there is reason to have confidence in both a more consistent offense as well as a more competent defense.
But without major improvement by incumbent players the lineup and bench are still probably not strong enough to overcome the defending National League East Division champion Atlanta Braves, or either the Washington Nationals or New York Mets.
Should they lose out on both Harper and Machado, many of those same underwhelmed fans would likely throw up their hands in surrender. However, the Phillies still have a reasonable chance to compete if they can improve their starting rotation.
In recent days the Phillies have been mentioned as being among the teams involved in trade discussions for Cleveland Indians right-handed ace Corey Kluber. But the team is believed to really want a strong left-handed option to add to the current all-righty mix.
MLB insider Jon Paul Morosi of MLB Network and Fox Sports stated today via his Twitter account that the Phillies are involved in negotiations for free agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel. The major holdup appears to be the club’s unwillingness to meet the player’s desire for a five-year contract.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 28, 2018
Keuchel will turn 31-years-old on New Year’s Day. While I am not usually a fan of handing out five-year deals to pitchers on the wrong side of age 30, he might actually be worth the stretch.
Neck woes cost Keuchel most of June and July 2017, but he has been otherwise physically reliable with no arm troubles. Keuchel won the 2015 AL Cy Young Award, has won the AL Gold Glove for pitchers in four of the last five seasons, and is a two-time American League all-star.
Keuchel has been at or above the 200-innings pitched mark three times over his five full seasons as a starting pitcher. He consistently delivers Quality Start efforts, something that is becoming increasingly valuable.
One knock on Keuchel is that he is a “soft-tosser”, generally pitching to contact as opposed to overpowering hitters. That could prove dangerous in a place such as Citizens Bank Park.
He succeeds as many similar “crafty” left-handers have in the past: solid control and smart pitching. Keuchel works off a four-seam fastball that rarely hits 90mph. But he mixes in a cutter, slider, sinker, and changeup. His excellent slider and sinker allow him to induce ground balls at a high rate.
Represented by super-agent Scott Boras, it was believed at the start of the off-season that it would take a five- or six-year deal at roughly $20 million average per season to land Keuchel’s services.
Such a deal would put him at right around the deals currently earned by pitchers such as Wei-Yin Chen and Jeff Samardzija. It would also put him right about where Cole Hamels, who is already 35-years-old, is currently earning.
Keuchel appears to be the kind of lefty pitcher who would age well, and who could have sustained success over the length of a five-year deal that would take him through his age 35 season. Remember, it was just a decade ago that the Phillies traded for a 43-year old Jamie Moyer. He delivered four solid seasons and was key starting pitcher on a world championship team.
Other teams believed to be looking closely at Keuchel are the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, and Texas Rangers. Again, while I am not generally inclined to support such a deal, I think that Keuchel could be the exception that proves the rule. The kind of smart pitcher who ages well.
He may never win another Cy Young. But Keuchel could well eat 850 or more innings over the next five years at 32-33 starts per season. That would be worth the contract. It is something the Phillies should seriously consider.
MORE FROM PHILLIES NATION:
- Cleveland ace Corey Kluber still reportedly in play for Phillies
- Machado may share Harper’s lack of enthusiasm for Philadelphia
- Angels have no interest in trading Mike Trout
- Future free agent classes strong, but kicking can down the road may be tough sell
- Phillies incumbent position players are waiting for their futures to be determined