With a need to upgrade a starting rotation spot and his being available, the New York Mets and Dallas Keuchel look like a match.
As we get into mid-April, 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel remains unsigned. Questions about his asking price, and his rejection of a qualifying offer tying him to draft pick compensation, have been the key culprits in Keuchel still being available.
The New York Mets made some significant moves this offseason in an effort to be a factor in what promises to be a tight NL East race this year. Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz are a good top-four in the starting rotation, but the last spot is turning into a real liability.
On Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves, Jason Vargas allowed four earned runs over just one-third of an inning. In three outings (two starts) this season, he now has a 14.21 ERA with 14 hits allowed, three strikeouts and four walks over 6.1 innings. Add in last year’s 5.77 ERA over 20 starts, and the left-hander has a 6.32 ERA and a 5.22 FIP (-0.7 bWAR) over 98.1 innings since signing a two-year, $16 million deal with the Mets.
So the Mets appear to be in the market for a pitcher.
Keuchel had a solid 2018 campaign for the Houston Astros, with a 3.74 ERA over 34 starts and 204.2 innings as he won his fourth Gold Glove. There are signs he is lowering his contract expectations, however minimally at this point.
Keuchel was reportedly throwing 95-pitch simulated games as of late-March, in order to be ready to go. So his ramping up process may not take as long as it otherwise might, and the Mets would probably have him on a pitch count over his first few starts anyway. Even a few innings per start of a non-peak Keuchel would be better than what Vargas is offering.
At some point, as teams show interest or surface with a need for a starter, Keuchel has to decide how badly he wants to pitch this year. The Mets making recent contact is a benefit to him, if only to bolster his market. But it’s time to consider what’s actually out there and get on a real mound somewhere, and if the Mets haven’t made an offer to have Keuchel join their rotation they should be doing so soon.