The White Sox announced this veteran left-hander Dallas Keechel is intended for assignment. infielder Danny Mendik was called by Triple-A on the relevant turn.
The move almost certainly ends Keuchel’s stint on the South side after 51 games and 257 1/3 innings since the start of the 2020 season. It doesn’t seem likely that another team would claim Keuchel from waivers, as such a move would leave this new team on the hook for the approximately $14.1 million still owed to Keuchel for the remainder of the 2022 season . Should Keuchel clear the waivers and then be released, the White Sox would pay the remainder of that salary, and a new team signing Keuchel could only owe the leftist the prorated MLB minimum salary.
Keuchel signed a three-year, $55.5 million free-agent contract with Chicago during the 2019-20 offseason, one of several notable moves made this winter to signal that the Sox are now recovering from a rebuilding period aim for a win. The initial returns from the signing were great as Keuchel posted a 1.99 ERA over 63 1/3 innings during the abridged 2020 season and placed fifth in the AL Cy Young Award voting.
Only a few flashes of that good form continued into 2021, however, when Keuchel finished last year with a 5.28 ERA over 162 largely fickle innings with Chicago. 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 over 32 innings.
Even in his prime with the Astros, he was never a big strikeout pitcher. There were many questions about how well Keuchel’s slow, Grounder-heavy approach would hold up as he got older. Between those concerns and a qualifying offer, Keuchel’s previous free-agent offer during the 2018-19 offseason meant the southpaw had to wait until June (according to the draft) to sign a prorated, one-year deal with the Braves. Keuchel pitched well enough in his 112 2/3 innings with Atlanta to then earn a longer-term signing from the Sox this offseason, with Keuchel also no longer eligible for QO.
Batters have a .364 BABIP against Keuchel this year, so there’s some unhappiness burned into his recent results. However, hitters are also making serious contact (judging by Keuchel’s barrels and barrel rate metrics) with the left-hander’s offers, and his sudden loss of control isn’t helping his run-stopping efforts either. Keuchel’s 50.8% grounder rate is also the lowest of his career, although still an above-league mark.
Despite these problems, it stands to reason that Keuchel’s track record will earn him some attention from one of the many teams looking for rotation help. A strong defensive team would pair particularly well with a groundball pitcher like Keuchel — speculatively speaking, a losing Cardinals team Stephen Matz, Jordan Hicksand Jack Flaherty on the list of injured parties could be interested in Keuchel’s services.
The White Sox were no strangers to pitching injuries themselves this season, and their rotational picture hasn’t been helped by Keuchel’s lack of success, though he has remained healthy. With Keuchel now in DFA limbo, the Sox have Luke Giolito, Dylan stops, Michael Kopechand Veterans Johnny Cueto make the rotation, and Lance Lynn begins a rehab stint in his recovery from knee surgery. Vince Velasquez could still start until Lynn is ready, but with the upcoming days off on May 30, June 6 and June 16, the Sox will be given some flexibility in determining their upcoming pitcher roster.
By and large, it certainly seems like the start of pitching will be a target area for Chicago going into the trading deadline. Giolito, Kopech and Cease were all very good, Cueto has 12 innings left to work and the White Sox are certainly hoping Lynn can return to his usual form once his rehab stint is over. However, depth is certainly still an issue given Kopech’s managed innings and the Sox can’t know what to really expect from Cueto over the course of a full season.
The way Keuchel performed in 2020, the signing still has to be viewed as a backfire for GM Rick Hahn’s front office. Keuchel was owed $18 million in salary this season, as well as a $1.5 million buyout of a $20 million club option for the 2023 season. That option should roll over if Keuchel pitched at least 160 innings this season, but that threshold doesn’t seem possible anymore, even though it never seemed particularly likely that the White Sox would roll that option.