Stay in Dallas: Why the Yankees Should Trade for a Starter and Not Sign Keuchel
On October 16, 2018, Dallas Keuchel pitched 5 innings and permitted 2 earned runs in a no-decision for the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the ALDS; unfortunately for Keuchel, Houston’s bullpen could not mitigate the ferocious offensive firepower of the eventual World Champion Boston Red Sox, who won the game 8-2.
Now, over 7 months later, Keuchel finally looks to put an end to his arduous free agency period; MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported yesterday that the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves are seeking to acquire the former Cy Young winner in the very near future.
But before anything becomes official, I want to persuade the Yankees not to make the beard-clad Keuchel lose his trademark image by signing him; rather, the Bronx Bombers should trade for a starting pitcher later on in the season.
It is difficult to expound how magical and majestic this campaign has been for the Yankees considering the circumstances they have incurred. Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, and James Paxton are just a few of the players to have entered the injured list at any point this season with return dates analogous to a Miami Marlins win—very sparse.
As of June 5th, the Yankees’ starting rotation ranks 8th in the majors with a 3.82 ERA despite the myriad of injuries faced to aforementioned ace Severino and Paxton as well as Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery. Additionally, the unit places in the same spot with 9.14 Ks per 9 innings as well as is 11th in WAR.
However, there have been concerns of late. In his last start against Boston, surprise step-up Domingo German lasted only 3.2 innings and surrendered 3 runs. In Kauffman Stadium against the Royals in his penultimate outing, German yielded 7 earned runs—4 via the long ball---against a last-place Royals team that ranks 26th in baseball with 62 dingers so far.
Moreover, Masahiro Tanaka, a perennial presence in the Bronx, has had hiccups recently. Tanaka permitted 4 runs in Rogers Centre just yesterday, albeit due to some questionable officiating. Prior to that, Tanaka was rocked for 4 earned runs by the Manny Machado-led Padres.
In the short term—despite his lengthy layover (even having pitched in simulated games)—I think Keuchel makes sense for the Yankees. There is no question that Keuchel would be a nice stopgap for any future IL stints; further, Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery have yet to return and, when they do, the Yankees could explore a 6-man rotation or move Keuchel/Montgomery to their nasty bullpen.
The issue I take with inking Keuchel is more so down the road.
Signing Keuchel would create some scuffling for Aaron Boone—the likely frontrunner for American League Manager of the Year—as I described above, but such a dilemma wouldn’t transcend the position problems he will face as talented players galore will hastily be healthy.
However, the Yankees are overcrowded for next year—and right now--at several positions.
When Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton return, the Bombers’ outfield will consist of Judge, Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier and Cameron Maybin. Maybin is a free agent at season’s end, so he won’t affect next season, but the Yankees have some decisions to make about Frazier—especially after his latest kerfuffle with the media coupled with his defensive floundering.
In 2018, newcomers DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela have combined for 9 home runs, 57 RBIs and 2.8 WAR. If the Yankees decide to shop Miguel Andujar—and re-sign Urshela—they could get a prelude of their 2020 3B position as soon as Friday, when Didi Gregorius is projected to return.
Likewise, the third base position appears to pose inquiries.
When Didi Gregorius returns, he should have a firm grip on shortstop (barring days of rest in which Gleyber Torres can slot in, as he did for the initial portion of this season). But in 2020, the Yankees will have D.J. LeMahieu—who has been a linchpin of their 2019 squad—as well as Miguel Andujar at third, whose offense in 2017 masqueraded his awful defense; arguably the biggest surprise of the season, Gio Urshela—who is batting .329 in 48 games so far—is a free agent, but New York would be wise to bring him back.
In my mind, that’s why a trade makes more sense: the Yankees can acquire legitimately phenomenal hurlers while clearing space for the future. Trading either Urshela or Andujar—both of whom are young—Greg Bird (who I think should be DFAd) and/or Frazier/top prospect Estevian Florial can aid the Yankees in avoiding sublime debacles in Tampa next winter.
The Bombers’ incentive to acquire a pitcher via trade should be augmented based on the quality of talent that should be available.
If the Rangers feel that they can’t sustain their place in the AL Wild Card race, 31-year-old lefty Mike Minor—whose 2.74 ERA is 5th in the American League—could be dispensable. Other names, like the Tigers’ Spencer Turnbull, Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman, Giants’ Madison Bumgarner and even the Nationals’ Max Scherzer could all be on the move if their front offices decide to sell rather than contend.
Fundamentally, I think the level of talent that could be added via a trade would exceed what Keuchel presents, especially considering Keuchel’s furlough. As Alex Rodriguez floated on Sunday Night Baseball just 3 days ago, adding a potent arm like Scherzer could put the Yankees over the edge in October.
Am I positing that Keuchel couldn’t give the Yankees that same advantage? No. But for Brian Cashman’s future to be more clear-cut—as well as considering the echelon of pitchers that will likely be available—I think it would be wiser for New York to acquire a top-flight starter in mid-July for the third straight year.