Free agent pitcher Dallas Keuchel has agreed to a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves, bringing an end to the last major outstanding free agency question in Major League Baseball.
The contract, which was first reported on by The Atlantic, will pay Keuchel $13 million over the remainder of the season – the prorated portion of what would have been a $20 million, 1 year deal.
Keuchel Expected to Join Triple-A Team Saturday
Keuchel and closer Craig Kimbrel failed to find teams in an offseason that was notoriously slow even for top free agents. Even after the season started, there seemed to be little interest in signing either pitcher, both of whom were past their 30th birthday.
But as expected, the markets for both heated up as soon as the MLB Draft began, as that meant teams would not be required to give up compensatory draft picks to their previous teams: the Astros for Keuchel, and the Red Sox for Kimbrel.
On Wednesday, Kimbrel landed with the Chicago Cubs. And on Thursday, Keuchel signed with Atlanta, a team that was looking for a veteran presence to stabilize its talented but young rotation.
Keuchel will have to pass a physical on Friday for the deal to be completed. Assuming all goes well, ESPN cited sources as saying that the plan is to have him make his first minor league start with the Triple-A Gwinnett Stripers on Saturday.
Braves Outbid Yankees
According to the MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the bidding for Keuchel came down to the Braves and the New York Yankees. The Yankees were hoping to sign Keuchel based on the prorated amount of the $17.9 million qualifying offer the pitcher had received – and rejected – from the Astros during the offseason, which would have amounted to between $11 million and $12 million depending on exactly when the signing took place.
But while Atlanta was willing to go higher, New York never budged from that amount, allowing the Braves to land the former AL Cy Young award winner.
Keuchel won his Cy Young in 2015, when he went 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA over 232 innings for the Astros. While the workhorse has never quite been able to reach that level of success in the three years since, he rebounded from a poor 2016 to post solid seasons in 2017 and 2018.
Last year, he went 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA. Perhaps most importantly, he was able to throw 204.2 innings, a number that few starters reach in the modern era. So while it’s likely that Keuchel will slot somewhere in the middle of Atlanta’s rotation for the remainder of the season, he’ll likely be a reliable innings eater for the Braves.
Atlanta currently finds itself in the middle of the race for the NL East. At 33-29, the Braves are just two games back of the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies, ahead of both the New York Mets and Washington Nationals.
According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Phillies are still a -110 favorite to win the division ahead of the Braves (+140). However, perhaps buoyed by the signing of Keuchel, Atlanta is now +1300 to win the World Series, making them fifth choice behind the Dodgers (+310), Astros (+330), Yankees (+600) and Twins (+700).