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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Dallas Keuchel

Should the Yanks take a shot on the lefty for the back of their rotation?

MLB: NLDS-Atlanta Braves at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are reportedly all-in on Gerrit Cole, preparing to offer the prolific ace a record deal to come to New York. Regardless if that happens or not, should Brian Cashman consider extra help for the back end of the rotation?

If the Yanks do indeed pay up for Cole, the rotation will look fairly set in the form of Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and likely one of Domingo German or Jordan Montgomery. J.A. Happ is still an option, though a trade wouldn’t be surprising.

If Cole signs elsewhere, then the rotation becomes much thinner, and help would be needed. As numerous backup options come off the board, like Cole Hamels and Zack Wheeler, could the Yanks bring in a pitcher that they declined to last summer in Dallas Keuchel?

Due to a number of teams passing on him in free agency last offseason, including the Yankees, Keuchel’s 2019 season didn’t start until late June, and unsurprisingly, the lefty was rusty. He surrendered six runs on 16 hits and three home runs in his first 10.2 innings of work in 2019, but then allowed only five runs and one dinger over his next 21.1 innings.

Later in his regular season, there was the incredibly weird outing where he was bombed for 10 hits and eight runs over 3.2 innings against...the Marlins. In his nine starts afterward, which took him to the end of the regular season, Keuchel posted a 2.55 ERA, though the hits were still an issue. He allowed 54 hits over those 53 innings down the stretch of the season, and his overall year ended with 115 hits allowed over 112.2 innings, the continuation of a trend that began in 2018, when he surrendered 211 hits over 204.2 innings.

It’s hard to blame Keuchel’s hits allowed on bad baseball luck, considering the fact that his hard-hit percentage spiked to his highest allowed since Statcast began tracking such data in 2015:

Data courtesy of Statcast

On the positive side, Keuchel seemed to get more grounders in 2019, which he’s made a living on for most of his career. Still, it certainly wasn’t a return to the groundball rate he posted in his peak years, but it was the best in baseball among pitchers with at least 100 innings.

The biggest concern for Keuchel would be his 2019 FIP of 4.72 and xFIP of 4.06, both easily career highs. Steamer projects his xFIP to continue to rise in 2020, and the southpaw will be another year older, so it’s tough to see the Yanks going after a pitcher they passed on a year earlier. MLB Trade Rumors projects a three-year, $39 million deal for Keuchel, and if the Yanks are preparing a record deal for Cole while still expressing interest in bringing back Brett Gardner, it’s hard to imagine Keuchel as much of a priority right now.