The White Sox announced that the veteran left-hander dallas keuchel has been designated for assignment. infielder danny mendick he was called up from Triple-A on the corresponding play.
The move certainly ends Keuchel’s tenure on the South Side after 51 games and 257 1/3 innings since the start of the 2020 season. Another team doesn’t seem likely to claim Keuchel from waivers, as such a move would put to the new team in jeopardy for the roughly $14.1MM Keuchel still owes him for the remainder of the 2022 season. If Keuchel approved waivers and was later released, the White Sox would pay the rest of that salary, and a new team he signed Keuchel could only owe the left-hander the MLB prorated minimum salary.
Keuchel signed a three-year, $55.5 million free agent deal with Chicago in the 2019-20 offseason, one of several notable moves made that winter to signal the Sox were now aiming to win after a phase of reconstruction. Initial results from the signing were excellent, as Keuchel posted a 1.99 ERA in 63 1/3 innings during the shortened 2020 season and finished fifth in AL Cy Young Award voting.
Only a few glimpses of that fine form continued into 2021, however, as Keuchel finished with a 5.28 ERA in 162 largely inconsistent innings with Chicago last year. The decline continued through Keuchel’s first eight starts in 2022, as he has a 7.88 ERA and as many walks (20) as strikeouts in 32 innings.
He was never much of a strikeout pitcher, even during his best years with the Astros, there were a lot of questions about how well Keuchel’s low-speed, high-ball approach would hold up as he aged. Between these concerns and a qualifying offer, Keuchel’s previous free-agent offer in the 2018-19 offseason resulted in the left-hander having to wait until June (after the draft) to sign a prorated one-year deal with the Braves. Keuchel pitched well enough during his 112 2/3 innings with Atlanta to then earn a longer-term commitment from the Sox that offseason, and Keuchel is no longer QO eligible.
Hitters have a .364 BABIP against Keuchel this year, so there is some disgrace to their recent results. However, hitters are also making serious contact (according to Keuchel’s barrel and barrel rate metrics) against the lefty’s offerings, and his sudden lack of control isn’t helping his run-prevention efforts either. Keuchel’s 50.8% ground-ball rate is also the lowest of his career, though it’s still above average throughout the league.
Even with these struggles, it stands to reason that Keuchel’s track record would earn him the attention of one of the many teams looking for help in the rotation. A strong defensive team would be a particularly good fit for a grounder like Keuchel; speculatively speaking, a Cardinals team that has lost steven matz, jordan hicksY Jack Flaherty to the disabled list could have an interest in Keuchel’s services.
The White Sox have been no strangers to pitching injuries this season, and their rotation image was not helped by Keuchel’s lack of success, even though he remained healthy. With Keuchel now in DFA limbo, the Sox have Lucas Giolito, dylan cease, michael kopechand veteran johnny cueto doing the rotation, and lance lynn He is starting a rehab assignment in his recovery from knee surgery. Vince Velasquez he could continue making starts until Lynn is ready, but with days off on May 30, June 6 and June 16, the Sox will have some flexibility in determining their next pitching roster.
In the big picture, it certainly looks like starting pitching will be a target area for Chicago heading into the trade deadline. Giolito, Kopech and Cease have all been very good, Cueto has yet to allow a run in 12 innings of work, and the White Sox certainly hope that Lynn can return to his usual form once he finishes his rehab assignment. However, depth certainly remains a concern, as Kopech’s innings will be handled and the Red Sox may not know what to really expect from Cueto over the course of a full season.
Aside from Keuchel’s performance in 2020, the signing still has to be considered a misfire for GM Rick Hahn’s front office. Keuchel was owed $18MM in salary this season, as well as a $1.5MM purchase of a $20MM club option for the 2023 season. That option vested if Keuchel pitched at least 160 innings this season, but that threshold was already doesn’t seem like a possibility, even if it never seemed particularly likely that the White Sox would let that option go.