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It’s three days into the 2019 season, and Dallas Keuchel is still without a job. Keuchel isn’t quite the same pitcher as he was in 2015 when he won the AL Cy Young, but he still deserves a spot in a major league rotation.
Meanwhile, plenty of contending teams entered the season with a rotation held together with duct tape and money to spend. At least one team is going to miss the playoffs because they didn’t want spend money on a 31-year-old, but hey, these teams will have a shot at receiving the replica Olympic medal for suppressing free agent salaries.
There are plenty of teams screwing up by not signing Dallas Keuchel, but who has screwed up the most?
The Brewers’ Opening Day starter was Jhoulys Chacin. Behind him are Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Zach Davies, and Freddy Peralta. There are some promising arms in that bunch, but you’d have a hard time proving this rotation couldn’t be improved by adding Dallas Keuchel.
Milwaukee is right in the middle of the battle royale that is the NL Central, and in that division, any incremental gain could be the difference between the division crown and sitting out of October.
The Cubs have a solid starting five rotation from Kyle Hendricks to José Quintana, but after that, things get scary quickly. Mike Montgomery is their best spot-start option, and then it’s Tyler Chatwood who almost allowed a walk rate higher than Mike Trout’s.
It’s not as if their bullpen is any deeper. Taking Montgomery out of the bullpen to fill a spot in the rotation just makes the ‘pen worse.
Perhaps the Cubs can be forgiven for not wanting as expensive an option as Keuchel. They’re already over the luxury tax threshold. They would have been better served with someone like Drew Pomeranz or even Derek Holland, but those guys aren’t available anymore and the Cubs should do something to address their weaknesses.
The Cincinnati Reds did a lot to improve a 67-win team. They acquired Sonny Gray and Tanner Roark without giving up their best prospects. They swapped out Homer Bailey for Alex Wood. They even got Matt Kemp whose power will play at the Great American Ballpark. Most importantly of all, they freed Yasiel Puig from the Dodgers, so he can finally be fully enjoyed by Giants fans.
It probably wasn’t enough to get them to first in the division. It’s tightly compacted enough that anything could happen, but adding Keuchel would have increased the odds of an upset. If anything, it would prevent the Cubs or Brewers from picking him up once they realize they’re screwed.
The A’s are coming off a 97-win season, and they don’t have a whole lot of competition for the second Wild Card spot. They have to worry about the Rays and maybe the Twins, but that’s it. You could think that they could rest on their laurels, but the A’s needed everything to break right last year. They had to have a 31 and 14 record in one-run games, the Mariners to collapse, and they needed Trevor Cahill and Edwin Jackson to carry the rotation.
PECOTA has them projected to win 76 games, and yes, that’s basically what PECOTA projected last year, too, but right now, the top nine starters on their depth chart are projected for 1.6 WARP. On his own, Keuchel is projected for 2.1 wins. Maybe the A’s should use their profit-sharing money to actually improve their roster.
The Nationals are in a similar situation to the Cubs where they would have been helped more by a pitcher who could be had on a one-year deal for less than $10 million considering they’re already over the cap. The Nationals also added Patrick Corbin on a nine-figure deal, so they’ve made a major move to improve their rotation already. But if they were willing to spend $300 million on Bryce Harper, they have more money to spend.
They have three teams on their heels, and PECOTA projects the Phillies to finish first. After last year’s disastrous season, I would think they’d want to do as much as possible to minimize risk. Instead, they’re counting on Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Hellickson to fill out the back of the rotation.