The White Sox’s starting rotation has been struggling as of late. The signing of still free agent LHP Dallas Keuchel could potentially fill the gap in the rotation
One thing that I find shocking is the fact that former Cy Young winner and World Series champion Dallas Keuchel is still a free agent. After not resigning with the Houston Astros this offseason and he hit the market, I figured he would at least be on a team in May, but he is not.
Because Keuchel rejected a $17.9 million qualifying offer, a team that were to sign him would lose a draft pick. It is understandable that Keuchel is not the same pitcher he was when he won the Cy Young award in 2015, so it may not be worth giving up a draft pick for a pitcher who seems to be injury prone these days.
But Keuchel led the American League in games started last season with 34. He did have an ERA of 3.74, which is a bit high, but just a year prior he posted a 2.90 ERA. There is a risk signing him in losing that draft pick and the risk may outweigh the benefit, but for a team that is supposed to be a year away from contending is struggling still, the risk may be worth taking.
The Rotation’s Woes
It was projected that the White Sox would not start to be serious contenders until 2020 and will be solid World Series contenders in 2021. With just one year away from that prediction, it is not a good sight to see the team’s starting rotation struggling so much.
On April 26, the White Sox announced the designation for assignment of starting pitcher Ervin Santana. He would reject the option to Triple-A Charlotte and is currently a free agent. To say he was off to a slow start would be sort of a compliment to the 36-year-old. In three starts, 13.1 innings pitched, he posted an ERA of 9.45 giving up 19 hits and 14 runs, all earned. With only five strikeouts, it was clear Santana would soon be off the team.
His last start was two days before the DFA in Baltimore. If you watched the game, you know Santana could not hit his locations for the life of him. Going just 4.2 innings after giving up four runs on six hits, Santana’s reign on the south side was finished faster than Scott Podsednik in his prime.
Currently, the rotation consists of Carlos Rodón, Reynaldo López, Iván Nova, and Manny Bañuelos. Lucas Giolito, who was on the IL for the past week and a half, is set to start on Thursday night against the Boston Red Sox. Outside of Santana, the rotation has been decent, but there is still anchor weighing down. That anchor is another 2019 free agent signing, Nova.
He too is on a similar start Santana was. Not as bad as Santana’s, but still quite underwhelming. With an ERA of 8.42 in 25.2 innings, it is hard to watch Nova these days.
In the second game of the doubleheader on Wednesday, Nova pitched 5.2 innings allowing five earned runs on nine hits with a couple of walks. In his start before Wednesdaye’s, April 23 at Baltimore, he only went four innings allowing nine earned runs on 11 hits. Before that, six earned on 11 hits.
It is coming to the point where when I see Nova’s name in the pitching probables, I anticipate a loss. Fortunately, the bullpen and the walk-off single off Yonder Alonso’s bat saved the Sox from being swept in the double-header Wednesday, no thanks to Nova’s lackluster start.
So what happens next?
Easy, DFA Nova then sign Keuchel.
As June 3 nears, the 2019 first-year player draft, rumors of teams interested in Keuchel, and Craig Kimbrel (who is also still a free agent) circulate the hot stove. There should be no reason why the White Sox should not be thrown into the mix.
The left-handedness of Keuchel would be the second one in the rotation after Rodón. Mixing the handedness of the rotation up is a great way to keep opposing hitters on their toes. Not to mention the experience the veteran has should be valuable. He is a two-time All-Star who won the Cy Young award just four years ago and knows what it is like to play October baseball and even win it all.
Realistically, the team will not sign Keuchel. This will most likely turn into another Manny Machado and Bryce Harper situation. He very well just may be just another nice looking free agent that draws a lot of attraction from other clubs swept away from the South Side. Another factor to look at is Keuchel’s asking price.
His price was reported to be a long-term deal, preferably seven or eight years, worth $150-$200 million. However, at the beginning of April, it was reported that Keuchel may be interested in a one-year deal above the qualifying offer he rejected in November, which would be perfect for the White Sox.
Will Jerry Reinsdorf allow the signing of Keuchel before the draft, losing a draft pick, perhaps not. But then again, many other teams will most likely not think about signing the 31-year-old until after the draft. But that is when the competition to sign him will be harder for the White Sox, so they must act on this sooner rather than later. With the knowledge he can provide for such a young rotation, and also, obviously, the skill he brings to the rotation, he is worth looking at.
It is clear the rotation has been weighing down on the barley afloat 13-15 White Sox. Keuchel could act as the life preserver as the White Sox inch closer to the promised land in the coming years.