It is unlikely though that Dallas Keuchel will accept the qualifying offer from the Astros.
The Houston Astros are watching the World Series from home this year. After winning the World Series last year, falling short of that goal was disappointing. They look to return to the World Series again in 2019, but there could be some fresh faces next year. As soon as the final out of this year's World Series is recorded, players will file for free agency. The Astros will be stricken by the departures.
We will talk about many of the options for the Astros as the offseason progresses. One of the players the Astros are not likely to retain is Dallas Keuchel. He may be willing to sign with the Astros, but this is his best chance to maximize his value long term. In other words, he wants to test the free agent market.
With the number of young teams looking for a top of the rotation pitched, he will get more value elsewhere. With that in mind, the Astros would like something in return for their former Cy Young Award winner. Unlike the teams who were tanking, the Astros did not have an opportunity to trade him. This is why the MLB has the qualifying offer system in place.
The qualifying offer has become somewhat of a stigma for players seeking free agent deals. Last year, we saw players like Jake Arrieta and Mike Moustakas struggle with finding a new home. While they may be worth signing, teams don’t want to give up the pick in compensation.
For a player like Bryce Harper, the pick is irrelevant, because you are getting potentially one of the best hitters in the game. For people like Keuchel coming off an healthy, so-so year, it could limit the teams trying for him. On the other side, it could prevent Charlie Morton from signing with another team.
The Astros are almost guaranteed to offer Keuchel a qualifying offer.
According to Joel Sherman, the qualifying offer is $17.9 million. If they do extend the offer to Keuchel, two things can happen.
- He accepts the 1-year deal for $17.9 million and will return to the Astros for 2019. (They could still work on an extension)
- Should he reject the offer, he will be able to sign with any other team for as much/long as he can. That team would have to give up a first-round pick in the 2019 draft to the Astros.
From the Astros point of view, either way is a win-win. He made $13.2 million last year via arbitration, via Sportrac, and his market value was going up. Sportrac has his average market value at around $20 million, so it would be below market value. If he declines, they get a first round compensation pick, which you know Jeff Luhnow loves those picks.
It would not be wise for Keuchel to accept that offer.
He is coming off his first healthy season since 2015 and pitched 200+ innings, which is rare in this “opener” craved MLB. Keuchel is also 30 years old, meaning this could be his last chance to get that long-term deal. If you take away his stats in the first inning, Keuchel did pitch well in 2018. While is not his 2015 form, his 13-12 record with a 3.76 ERA still qualifies him as a two or three in the rotation. Stats via Baseball-Reference.
When Keuchel tweeted out last week, “I love you Houston,” that could have been his way of saying goodbye. We saw something similar with Marwin Gonzalez this week. As much as Keuchel may want to stay, he knows how the Astros organization works. They assign a value to a player based on the analytics and offer that contract.
The Astros have yet to lock up a pitcher long-term as well under current management. Hopefully the change their philosophies with Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. There are many holes in the roster, but the core players remain intact. Good luck to Keuchel, I would love to have him back, but would like to have money to lock up others later.