During the start of free agency in November, Dallas Keuchel to the Yankees seemed like a slim possibility. The Yankees value velocity and strikeouts in their pitchers, and those definitely are not Keuchel’s strengths. Despite a solid track record, Keuchel is now viewed as a pitcher on the decline asking for too much money.
Severino went down with a shoulder injury followed by a grade two lat strain during camp. Severino is out until at least the All-Star break. Sabathia missed the first two weeks of the season with knee/ heart issues. And to top it off, Paxton is going to miss three weeks with a sore knee.
Logically, this trio of injuries have caused a clamoring for Brian Cashman to sign Keuchel, aformer Cy Young Award winner. But does a Keuchel signing make sense?
Holding down the fort
Some would argue no!
The Yankees rotation, despite the rash of injuries, has been awesome this year. CC continues to defy age, pitching to a 2.56 ERA since coming off the Injured List. Tanaka has a 3.92 ERA and is striking out 8.3/9 despite turning in back to back mediocre starts recently. Domingo German has been nothing short of fabulous. German is 6-1 with a 2.35 ERA and has flashed electric stuff. German is already garnering All-Star consideration. Those three pitchers give the Yankees a solid top of the rotation for the time being, even without Severino and Paxton.
Chinks in the armor
Despite the solid start, there are cracks in the foundation.
Happ has been terrible. He’s given up way too many homers, his strikeouts are down, and his ERA is approaching five. At age 36, his decline shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Jonathan Loaisiga, who is set to make a start in Paxton’s place on Wednesday, has been up and down in the minors. Another thing to keep in mind is the Yankees’ strong pitching start has come at the hands of a soft early schedule. The pitching has held teams like the Giants, Angels, and Orioles in check. However, better competition is looming.
The Yankee rotation is also filled with fragility. Sabathia’s age and knee issues make him a constant injury risk. Tanaka has the partially torn elbow and also strained both hamstrings last year. German missed time with an elbow injury last year. Paxton is supposed to be back in three weeks, but he has a long and lengthy injury history himself. In fact, Paxton has never threw more than 160 innings in a season.
So, is Keuchel a fit?
At this juncture, with a price point that should be dropping by the day, combined with a rotation full of injury concerns, Keuchel makes sense for the Yankees. Offer him $9 million for the second half of the season, which would pro-rate with the one year qualifying offer. If the Yankees wait until after June 5, they wont have to surrender a draft pick, which Cashman and Co. have coveted in recent years.
Sure, Keuchel has declined a bit, but he still had a 3.74 ERA last year and is a proven postseason performer. He’s a big game pitcher who knows the American League inside and out. He previously stated that he would have no problem pitching in a big city like New York. As a left hander, he provides insurance against another Paxton injury while serving as a better option moving forward than Happ, if he continues to falter, or the inexperienced Loaisiga.