The hot stove season ended for baseball Thursday, with two months of games already played, far closer to the All-Star game than the winter meetings. Dallas Keuchel, the final marquee free-agent pitcher, signed a one-year, $13-million contract to bolster the starting rotation of the Atlanta Braves.
Unlike reliever Craig Kimbrel, who has agreed to a three-year, $43-million deal with the Chicago Cubs, Keuchel opted for a temporary stay in Atlanta before re-entering the market next winter. Neither the Braves nor the Cubs sacrificed a draft pick in order to sign their new pitchers, who waited to sign until after the draft this week.
Keuchel will make his first start this weekend for triple-A Gwinnett, according to Yahoo Sports. He had been throwing simulated outings to keep his arm fresh and will attempt to join the flow of the season midstream.
Keuchel, 31, earned accolades during his seven seasons with the Houston Astros. He won the 2015 American League Cy Young Award. He owns four Gold Gloves. He made the All-Star team in 2015 and 2017. He owns a World Series ring.
Even so, Keuchel should provide an upgrade to Atlanta’s pitching staff, if he can find a rhythm this deep into the season. The Braves have received shoddy performances from Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman, both of whom were expected to anchor the rotation.
After winning the National League East in 2018, Atlanta resides in second place behind the Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves made no long-term investments this winter, but made a few shrewd moves. They signed third baseman Josh Donaldson to a one-year, $23-million contract. They persuaded young stalwarts Ronald Acuña ($100 million) and Ozzie Albies ($35 million) to take team-friendly extensions. Keuchel could be a similar bargain.