The Milwaukee Brewers have largely stayed out of the pursuit of free agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel. But with his free agency remaining unresolved, could the Brewers and Keuchel agree on a pillow contract?
When star players head into free agency seeking multi-year contracts and they don’t get those kinds of offers to their liking, those players sometimes accept one year, pillow contracts to head into free agency the next season. The Milwaukee Brewers have signed a few of these contracts.
Mike Moustakas is a recent example of this. He sought a multi year contract after 2017 and after 2018, and didn’t get offers to his liking and had to accept one year deals to re-enter free agency the next year.
We’re 22 days away from Opening Day and Dallas Keuchel still doesn’t have a team. It’s getting close to time for Keuchel to just accept a one year pillow contract and try to get that multi-year deal next offseason. If Keuchel will consider one year pillow contracts, would the Milwaukee Brewers be a potential landing spot?
Keuchel and the Milwaukee Brewers
Many in the media have speculated that Keuchel and the Milwaukee Brewers would make a good match due to the Brewers need for a frontline starting pitcher and need for a left handed starter. But President of Baseball Operations David Stearns hasn’t done what the media’s expected him to do.
With the entirety of the Crew’s rotation options being right handed, adding a lefty to the group would be beneficial, and there aren’t many better lefties out there than Keuchel.
Given the Brewers are a small market team that is extending into record payroll levels in 2019, adding a long term contract for at least $15-20 million a season may not exactly be in the cards. But Stearns has shown a willingness to make big expenditures on one year contracts.
Yasmani Grandal didn’t seem to make sense on the surface for Milwaukee because he was seeking a multi-year contract at a high AAV, but Stearns was able to sign him for a slightly bigger salary but only for one season. There is very little long term risk in one year contracts.
One Year Pillow Contracts
The concerns about signing Keuchel are not about how he’s going to pitch in his age-31 season here in 2019, it’s about how effective he’ll be when he’s 34 and 35. If you’re signing him to a multi-year deal, that’s a viable concern. But if you’re signing him to a one year contract, it’s not.
Keuchel, a ground ball pitcher who has the profile to succeed in Miller Park, would be an immediate difference maker in this Milwaukee Brewers rotation. He would provide that frontline starter with a successful track record that the Crew has lacked.
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It’s his age-31 season, meaning he’s still in the tail end of his prime and should be a very productive pitcher this year. If this year is the only concern, Keuchel would’ve been signed by now. But teams are wary of those fourth and fifth years that he’s searching for.
If Keuchel is willing to accept a one year contract, he’d likely push for at least $20 million for that one year. The yearly value should be slightly inflated if it’s just a one year contract.
If the Milwaukee Brewers were to do that, they’d need to move some other payroll. The first name to likely go on the trade block would be Chase Anderson. He’s due $6.5 million this year and with another rotation spot taken away, Anderson would be expendable. Eric Thames and his $6 million salary would also be on the chopping block and those two salaries would likely have to be moved to make a Keuchel addition work.
There hasn’t been any confirmation that Keuchel would be willing to accept a one year pillow contract and this is pure speculation, but it’s getting late in the spring and he needs to sign soon. It’s not a perfect fit between Keuchel and Milwaukee since other salaries would have to be moved, but it might be the move to put this team over the top.
If Keuchel is unwilling to sign a one year deal and is still searching for that long term deal, the Milwaukee Brewers likely won’t be his landing spot. But the Phillies appear out on Keuchel and there aren’t many teams that seem interested in his market.
It’s been an odd winter for Keuchel, as he was seen as the second best starting pitcher on the market this offseason, and the six year deal for Patrick Corbin seemed to bode well for Keuchel’s future contract. But here he is on March 6th without a contract.