While with the Chicago White Sox, Dallas Keuchel put his best foot forward as a Cy Young Award nominee.
But the left-hander failed to find consistency in the second half of last season and early in 2022, and the Sox designated him for action on Saturday.
Keuchel had a 2-5 record and a 7.88 ERA with 20 strikeouts in eight starts this season.
“So with the back of the baseball card, so to speak, we wanted to give him an opportunity this season to show he’s capable of getting himself back on track,” said Sox general manager Rick Hahn. “There wasn’t necessarily a magic number of starts that would have been required before we made that decision and indeed, although we’d talked about it internally for a while, his starts against New York with us (on May 14) and Boston at Fenway (on May 8) were impressive enough to keep giving him the ball.
“Obviously the trend of the last few (launches), especially the (Thursday) night, was enough for us to say it was time to try something different at this point.”
The left-hander, who won the American League’s Cy Young Award with the Houston Astros in 2015, was a key addition, agreeing to a three-year, $55.5 million deal on December 30, 2019. The contract included a team option for 2023.
Keuchel, 34, went 17-16 with a 4.79 ERA in 51 appearances (49 starts) for the Sox.
“He has a lot to be proud of,” said Sox manager Tony La Russa. “Since I’ve been here he hasn’t once advertised that he didn’t compete, which is the ultimate measure. I understand that he feels like he could have done better, he should have done better. But I don’t think anyone in that uniform would trade their career for what they did in the next 10 or 12 years.
“I think he’s healthier this year than last year. He has games left, pitching left if there’s a team interested in him.
He finished fifth on AL Cy Young voting in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, finishing 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA in 11 starts.
Keuchel was 9-9 with a 5.28 ERA in 32 games (30 starts) last season. Keuchel, who won an AL Gold Glove Award in 2021, went 6-1 in his first 14 starts with a 3.78 ERA and 3-8 in his last 18 appearances with a 6.70 ERA. He was included in the Taxi roster for the American League Division Series against the Astros.
During spring practice, Keuchel said the end of 2021 left a “sour taste” and he had started throwing earlier than usual during the offseason in preparation for hopes of a rebound season.
He won his 100th career win on April 13 against the Seattle Mariners. He allowed 10 runs, seven earned, on 10 hits with a walk in a plus innings at his next game on April 20 in Cleveland. He exited the tournament after facing 11 hitters in the second round. The Sox made four errors in the 11-1 loss in the first game of a doubleheader.
Keuchel allowed at least six runs in three of his eight starts this season.
“We definitely got what we expected in 2020 and the first half or so in 21,” Hahn said. “He was basically what we expected when we signed him and unfortunately the second half of his career with the White Sox didn’t pan out as we had hoped. There’s a degree of anticipation with any free agent signing, but there’s also reasonable predictions on our part, at least in terms of a potential downfall. In that case, I would say the decline ended up being a bit steeper than we expected.”
Keuchel had strong games this month in Boston (two runs in six innings, May 8) and against the New York Yankees (five shutout innings, May 14) before playing at Yankee Stadium on May 21 (six runs in four innings) and on Thursday against the Yankees fought the Red Sox in guaranteed rate field (six runs in two innings).
“This club made it into the postseason for the first time in franchise history in 20’s and 21’s back-to-back seasons and that most likely won’t be without the contributions of Dallas in those two seasons,” Hahn said. “Obviously he was in the top five for Cy Young in 2020. Last year he got some important wins for us, especially in the first half. I remember (one) against Toronto and Tampa (June 10th and 15th) with us. So he certainly delivered what we were looking for for the first half of this contract.
“This season’s stretch, apart from some impressive performances against Boston and New York, as well as a lot of starts in the second half of last year, has shown that he wasn’t quite up to the task we expected him to do this year. So we definitely wish him all the best on his next stop. I just want to make sure his contributions don’t get lost here as people focus on him getting removed from the club.”
In the corresponding move on Saturday, the Sox recalled Triple-A Charlotte infielder Danny Mendick.
Separately, outfielder Eloy Jiménez began a rehab assignment with Charlotte in Durham, NC on Saturday. Jiménez suffered an injury on April 23 that required surgery to repair a torn hamstring behind his right knee.
He went 1-for-2 on Saturday but was eliminated after a single to right field in the second inning with right leg pain. The Sox said he was day-to-day.