Milwaukee Brewers Free Agent Targets: SP Dallas Keuchel

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 03: Dallas Keuchel #60 of the Atlanta Braves delivers the pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals during the third inning in game one of the National League Division Series at SunTrust Park on October 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 03: Dallas Keuchel #60 of the Atlanta Braves delivers the pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals during the third inning in game one of the National League Division Series at SunTrust Park on October 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

As the Milwaukee Brewers look to bolster their starting rotation this offseason, one name that should be on their radar is free agent, Dallas Keuchel.

Although they are coming off of their second straight postseason berth – which has only happened one other time in team history – the Milwaukee Brewers took a step backwards in 2019 and if not for an amazing September run, they would have missed the playoffs.

Now the Brewers find themselves in the midst of a very important offseason as their World Series window is still open, but they need to take advantage of it. And one area that could use some help, is the starting pitching.

Last season, the Milwaukee starting rotation ranked ninth in the NL with a 4.40 ERA, but truthfully, they had been around the 12 or 13 mark for much of the season before some very good September performances gave them a late boost. Meanwhile their FIP of 4.59 was ranked 10th and of the NL and AL playoff teams, the Brewers ERA and FIP were the second worst, just ahead of the New York Yankees.

While the overall numbers weren’t awful by any means, the way manager Craig Counsell uses his pitching staff takes a lot of the burden off of his starters as they rarely have to go through the batting order a third time. In 2019, the Brewers’ starters pitched just 788.1 innings, the sixth fewest in baseball but as we saw in this year’s postseason, starting pitching matters and having a pitcher or two who can go six or seven innings is a must. However, as of right now Milwaukee has a number of question marks surrounding their 2020 rotation.

We know what Brandon Woodruff provides to this team, but will we see Brent Suter back in the mix in 2020? Can Adrian Houser continue to develop into a reliable option? Will the Brewers pay Zach Davies the $5 million that he is owed in arbitration? And can either Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta or Jimmy Nelson bounce-back and be relied upon?

The only sure thing at the moment is Woody, which means near the top of the Milwaukee Brewers’ offseason to-do list needs to be adding a high-caliber starting pitcher to the mix. Unlike what they did in 2018.

Enter free agent Dallas Keuchel who was linked to the Brewers last offseason and into the first few months of the 2019 season. Keuchel was looking for a long-term deal but with the current state of MLB free agency, he was hard pressed to find one. As a result, he didn’t sign with the Atlanta Braves until early June.

It was a rough start in Atlanta for Keuchel who had to shake off the rust after not participating in Spring Training but he would get back on track. In total, he would finish the season with a 3.75 ERA, which is in line with his career average, a WHIP of 1.37, with 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings in his 112.2 innings pitched.

As I alluded to above, the Brewers rarely let their pitchers go past the fifth inning but Keuchel is someone who could give them six or seven innings every time he’s on the mound, which could go a long ways in taking some of the pressure off this Milwaukee bullpen. In fact, over his career he has pitched in at least 200 innings three different times, most recently in 2018.

Keuchel has a five pitch repertoire and he isn’t going to over power hitters by any means. His fastball tops out in the uppper 80s and he instead relies on good location and keeping hitters off-balance with a combination of his sinker (48% usage), change-up (15%), cutter (20%), and a slider (13%).

With all of that said, there are a few concerns in what we saw from Keuchel in 2019. While he has always been a heavy groundball pitcher and he was once again last season with over 60 percent of the balls in play being grounders, the few flyballs that he did give up left the park 24 percent of the time. A nearly nine percent increase from his career average. As a result, his home runs per nine inning mark of 1.3 was the highest of his career since his rookie season in 2012. This could be an issue in the hitter-friendly confines of Miller Park.

Additionally, Keuchel’s hard contact rate was up more than10 percent above his career average, he walked batters more frequently, and his FIP of 4.72 was nearly a full run higher than his ERA, showing that he may not have been as effective as his ERA would lead you to believe.

Is this the beginning of the end for the 31-year-old Dallas Keuchel, or just a product of an abnormal season that didn’t begin until June for him? GM David Stearns and company will have to take a careful look.

As far as what Keuchel’s contract could look like, he could provide the Milwaukee Brewers with a much more affordable option while still giving them a high quality addition to the rotation. While MLB Trade Rumors has Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg earning over $30 million per year, and Zack Wheeler at $20 million, they’ve projected Keuchel to sign a three year – $39 million contract. At $13 million a season, this would still give Milwaukee plenty of money to potentially bring back Yasmani Grandal, as well as upgrade a few other positions.

Next. Brewers make right call and decline Eric Thames' option. dark

This is going to be a busy offseason for the Milwaukee Brewers as they’ll look to make another World Series push in 2020. Although they’ll need to look into upgrading first base, shortstop, catcher and third base, finding a starting pitcher is a must. And Dallas Keuchel should be on their radar.

All stats via Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and Brooks Baseball