By: Chris Larson
It's already almost two weeks into the 2019 regular season and Dallas Keuchel is still sitting on the sidelines awaiting to find out where his new home will be. Whether or not a signing actually occurs this month or closer to the Amateur Draft in June remains to be seen, but regardless of that point, the fact is there are a handful of teams that would benefit tremendously from inserting Keuchel into their rotation.
At the start of every season, we always try and examine to see who is expected to have the best starting rotation, whose starting rotation might record the most strikeouts, and which starting rotation consists of the most depth. While all of those are key predictions, the game is ultimately played out on the field, not paper, and that means that those predictions are often times proven wrong and things don't seem, as rosy as they did, at the start of the season.
That's why these five teams should consider signing Dallas Keuchel right now and bolster their starting rotation with a veteran, proven arm before it's too late.
1. San Diego Padres - The San Diego Padres are off to a very good start this season and currently occupy second place amid the National League West. As they always say, expect the unexpected in baseball, so who knows if this will be the season that the Padres take the next big leap, and find a way to make it into the postseason. It would be a surprise for many, but with the talent on their 25-man roster and the fact that the team possesses the best farm system in baseball, it's to be expected. While there is plenty of talent on the Padres 25-man roster and throughout the organization, their starting rotation could afford to add that one veteran arm at the top.
So far this season, the average age of the San Diego Padres starting rotation is 23 years old. That is a very young age and something that you don't see too often unless a team is trying to see what they have in a young stable of arms and trying to surprise everyone. Although the Padres currently rank second in the National League with a starting rotation ERA of 2.45 over 47.2 IP, they could definitely afford to add Dallas Keuchel to help lead the way and provide some proven stability in the event that some of the youngsters start to falter down the stretch.
2. Washington Nationals - So far this season, the Washington Nationals are off to somewhat of a dismal start, with a 4-4 record occupying fourth place in the National League East. While the bullpen has definitely been the Achilles heel for the Nationals to date, an argument can be made that their starting rotation could afford to add some more depth given the question marks that exist towards the back end of it. You definitely can't go wrong with the top three consisting of: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin, but after that there are a few question marks regarding how sustainable the health and performance of Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Hellickson will be over time.
To date, the Nationals rank eighth in the National League with a starting rotation ERA of 3.78 over 47.2 IP. Over that period, the Nationals starting rotation has allowed an Opponent Batting Average Against of (.239), which ranks eighth in that category among the NL, and they are tied with the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants with (20) earned runs thus far. While the rotation hasn't necessarily been bad, they have been mediocre and if the Nationals want to add another National League East Championship to their resume, then this might be the time to sign Keuchel and really bolster that rotation.
3. St. Louis Cardinals - Heading into this season, the St. Louis Cardinals were expected to have one of the best starting rotations in the National League, let alone all of baseball, but that hasn't necessarily been the case so far. To date, the Cardinals have the sixth highest starting rotation ERA (4.37 over 45.1 IP) in the National League and have the second highest Opponent Batting Average Against (.271) over that period, behind only their rivals, the Chicago Cubs. As was expected at the start of the season, the National League Central was viewed as an extremely competitive division and that has been the case so far. All five teams within that division have the ability to do big things despite the Cincinnati Reds starting the year with a 1-8 record and the Chicago Cubs starting off the season slow.
Switching back to the Cardinals now, if St. Louis really wants to bolster their odds of winning the division, then they would be wise to sign Dallas Keuchel right now. Keuchel could take on the role of being the Cardinals next Adam Wainwright, in terms of veteran leadership and someone that could groom the team's young stable of arms, and would pair nicely with Miles Mikolas at the top. Furthermore, Dakota Hudson (24) only pitched 27 innings last season, while the Cardinals number three starter, Jack Flaherty (23 years old) started 28 games last year, but didn't log more than 151 innings. Keuchel could be the right guy to show both Hudson and Flaherty how to succeed at the big league level and could give St. Louis some much needed assurance as an innings eater.
4. Colorado Rockies - Out of all five teams on this list, the Colorado Rockies are probably the one team that no one really would connect to Dallas Keuchel, but there is definitely a need there for another arm within the starting rotation. The Rockies continue to state that their window to contend is right now, but they are another team that has been off to a dismal start thus far, posting a 3-7 record and occupying fourth place in the National League West. If Colorado really wants to be taken seriously and viewed as a threat to take over the National League West from the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have won the division championship during each of the previous six seasons, then the time is to act now and fix a significant need on their roster.
So far this season, the Colorado Rockies starting rotation has the third highest ERA (5.60 over 54.2 IP) in the National League and are tied with the, Arizona Diamondbacks, in earned runs (34) over that period which leads the National League in that category. Dallas Keuchel would be a great fit because not only can he provide some stability, he has also developed the reputation of being a groundball pitcher, something that the Colorado Rockies are always scouring for. Dating back to the 2015 regular season, among qualified starting pitchers, Keuchel ranks third with a groundball percentage of (59.1%), over that span. Furthermore, over that same period, Keuchel ranks third with an overall groundball-to-flyball ratio of (2.88) meaning that he could prove to be more than valuable to the Colorado Rockies over the length of his contract.
5. Philadelphia Phillies - Besides the Washington Nationals, another National League East team that would benefit from adding Dallas Keuchel are the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies were aggressive in the marketplace for a starting pitching upgrade last summer at the July 31st Trade Deadline and continued to pursue upgrades this past offseason, but weren't able to land anything significant because they were so focused on upgrading their defense and getting one of the offseason's biggest stars in outfielder, Bryce Harper. Although the offense and defense is much improved, a case can be made that the Phillies could afford to make another significant pitching upgrade and the right guy might be Dallas Keuchel.
Keuchel would pair nicely with both, Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta, at the top of Philadelphia's starting rotation and would once again be viewed as not only a veteran leader, who could provide leadership from the teams young starting pitchers, but someone that could be an innings eater as well. So far this season, the Philadelphia Phillies starting rotation has been middle of the pack in the National League posting a, 3.92 ERA over 43.2 IP, with an Opponent Batting Average Against of (.248). Given some of the question marks that exist with Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, and Vincent Velasquez at the back end, the Phillies might be wise to strike a deal with Keuchel now and really bolster their chances of winning the National League East.