Posted on June 7, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
With that pesky draft-pick compensation no longer holding things up, it didn’t take long for left-handed starter Dallas Keuchel to find a new home. Late Thursday, Keuchel agreed to end his extended free agency saga and sign with the Atlanta Braves. Keuchel will sign just a one-year deal with the Braves worth $13 million, which is prorated from a salary of $21.21 million. The deal will send Keuchel back to the free agent market next winter and give the Braves a potential difference maker for the rest of 2019.
Keuchel’s agent Scott Boras has said that Keuchel would be ready to pitch in the big leagues within a week of signing. If all goes well with Keuchel’s physical on Friday, he is slated to start for Atlanta’s triple-A affiliate on Saturday. Nothing is planned after that, but it’s possible that Keuchel’s next start could be in the big leagues sometime next week.
By his standards, Keuchel is coming off a somewhat modest season with the Astros last year. In 34 starts, he went 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA. Those are somewhat disappointing numbers after the lefty posted an ERA under 3.00 in three of the previous four seasons, including a 20-win campaign in 2015. However, he remains a frontline starter and one of the most consistent in baseball.
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“He got back to being himself,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said last October of Keuchel’s strong finish to the 2018 season. “He knows who he is, what he does best — attacking the game plan, improvising as the game goes along. He gets the ball on the ground. He gets soft contact. He got ultra-focused on just getting back to his strengths and being himself.”
In Atlanta, Keuchel will join a rotation that’s middle of the pack in the National League. The Braves have some young talented arms, but they’ve been plagued by inconsistency. Would-be ace Mike Foltynewicz is 1-5 with a 5.89 ERA after missing the early part of the season because of a bone spur in his elbow. Veteran Kevin Gausman has posted a 6.12 ERA over his first 12 starts and could be a candidate to lose his rotation spot to Keuchel.
Meanwhile, youngsters Mike Soroka and Max Fried have led the Atlanta rotation. Julio Teheran has also had a resurgence during the first half of the season. However, the Braves know that those results may not be sustainable for the entire season. The addition of Keuchel will give the Braves a consistent starter they can rely on every five days, as well as a veteran to lead an otherwise young rotation.
To be fair, the Braves may have been better off signing Craig Kimbrel to be their closer rather than adding a starter like Keuchel. The team currently lacks a proven closer at the back of their bullpen. However, Keuchel is surely the kind of addition the Braves needed to make in order to defend their NL East title. The Braves sit two games back of the Phillies, and it’s not out of the question for the Mets or Nationals to make it a three- or four-team race. In what looks like it could be a tight pennant race, Keuchel could end up being the lift the Braves need to come out on top in the NL East this season.