Why Keuchel and Marwin are still out there


There is always a risk in a headline like this. By the time this is posted one or both of these Astro free agents, Dallas Keuchel and Marwin Gonzalez, could be signed. So a good alternate headline is why are Keuchel and Marwin still unsigned on Feb. 12th at 6:52 AM?

One of the things that can get players like this in trouble is a false comparison which can lead to a false expectation. In Marwin’s case the name of fellow Swiss Army knife Ben Zobrist gets bandied about. For Dallas his agent rolled out Hall of Famer Tom Glavine as a comp. To paraphrase the late Lloyd Bentsen in a VP debate, after Dan Quayle compared himself at his age to JFK, “I know Ben Zobrist and Tom Glavine and you sirs are no Zobrist or Glavine”.  (By the way Quayle probably should have said, yes I’m no JFK – I go home to my own wife every night). Both players non-coincidentally have new representation with agent Scott Boras, who was the source of the Glavine comparison to DK and who undoubtedly has been planting the seed that a lucky team will be signing the next Zobrist in Marwin G.

First of all, despite mumblings and grumblings about both players at times during their stay in Houston, they are both Astro heroes, who played a big part in the team’s resurgence and eventual World Championship.

Keuchel’s 2015 Cy Young year (20-8, 2.48 ERA) carried the team to its first playoff spot in a decade and within a few outs of a berth in the ALCS. He also pitched excellently before facing an injury in the 2017 WS run (14-5, 2.90 ERA). His post season exploits (like many pitchers) was up and down, but his brilliant start to eliminate the Yanks in the  2015 Wild Card play-in game along with some strong starts against the Royals, Yanks and Red Sox in the 2015, 2017 and 2018 playoffs will be best remembered.

Marwin Gonzalez has been one of the most flexible players on the club both as a switch hitter and also filling in all around the infield and as a semi-regular in left field. His career year was the 2017 World Series year as he led a terrific lineup with 90 RBIs while putting up a very good .303 BA/.377 OBP/ .907 OPS slash line. He was terrible in the playoffs that season (much better in the 2018 playoffs) but hit a critical game tying HR in the 9th inning of the Game 2 WS classic against the Dodgers that helped the Astros bring home their first win in a WS game ever.

But enough with heroics, let’s look at why each of these guys are having problems selling themselves as the next Zobrist or Glavine.

MarGo vs. Ben Z

The case for Marwin includes the fact that he is 5 years younger than Ben was when he signed a 4 year $56 million contract. His 2017 was a better year than any year Zobrist has ever put up (except for a decade ago 2009 season).

Both players are switch hitters. Both players play both the infield and outfield solidly, though Zobrist has played both RF and LF, while Gonzalez has been almost exclusively in LF.

But getting back to the 2017 season, while it is a season that Ben has not matched since his younger days, it is also a year that Marwin has never come close to matching. In fact, outside of that 2017 season, all of Gonzalez’s other seasons have been basically less than Zobrist’s 13 year (162 game) average of 87 runs/17 HRs/76 RBIs / .266 /.357/.785. One of the biggest differences between the players comes in the area of plate discipline. For his career, Zobrist has 809 walks vs 970 Ks, while Gonzalez has 179 walks vs. 541 Ks. In his last 4 seasons, Zobrist has exactly the same amount of walks as Ks and in two of those seasons had more walks than Ks. Marwin’s best season in this area was 2017 and even then he had only 49 walks vs 99 Ks. In 5 of his last 8 seasons, Zobrist has had an OPS over .800, while Gonzalez has only the 2017 season above the .800 mark.

Bottom line – if Marwin and his agent are looking for a Zobrist payout, they need to find someone who can’t look at basic stats. He still is a valuable player due to age and flexibility, but it looks like he should get something more in the range of 3 yrs – $36 million.

The Beard vs The Brave

The case for Dallas Keuchel includes a Cy Young under his belt, the fact that he is a lefty, the fact that he has been under 3.00 ERA three of his last five seasons and the big time fact that after Patrick Corbin signed he was really the top pitcher available out there in the free agent market. He has won some huge games for the Astros and is definitely a pitcher not a thrower.

Similar to Tom Glavine he is a guy who throws to contact (they are both just under 9 hits per ball game for their careers) and not a K guy – Keuchel has struck out 7.4 per game, while Glavine in a very different strikeout adverse era only struck out 5.3 per game.

So how does Keuchel, heading into his year 31 season compare to Glavine at the same age?

Glavine at that age had also won a Cy Young, but had been in the top 3 four times, while DK only had votes once. Glavine made 4 AS teams (Keuchel made two) and had ERAs of between 2.55 and 3.20 in 5 of his 6 seasons, with a 3.97 in his one outlier. Keuchel had the injury he suppressed during 2016 (4.55 ERA) and a 3.74 ERA last season along with 3 sub- 3.00 ERA seasons. Glavine had picked up MVP votes in 3 seasons, while Keuchel did in 2015 only. Glavine had at least 29 starts in 8 of his 9 seasons before turning 31 (the other season was a strike season) and Keuchel missed significant time in both 2016 and 2017. Wins/losses are not always a telling feature on pitchers, but Keuchel in his last five seasons is 67-45 while Glavine in his five seasons leading to age 31 was 86-40.  Keuchel is an excellent athlete and has been 4 time Gold Glove at pitcher, while Glavine’s hitting was recognized as he had been a 3 time Silver Slugger through age 30.

Remember that after reaching age 30, Glavine played 12 more seasons , won another Cy Young and came in second once, made 6 more All Star teams and won 176 more games out of his career total of 305.

Bottom line: Dallas Keuchel is a good pitcher who at times is a very good pitcher. He also is a very hittable pitcher (gave up the most hits in the AL last season), who may struggle as his 91 mph fast ball drops to 89.5. He will work hard for his next team and may bring value for 3 or 4 years, but not 6 or 7 years if that is what he wants. Best guess….he signs for 4 years/$84 million with an opt out along the way.

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47 comments on “Why Keuchel and Marwin are still out there

  1. We love these guys because they helped us win for years. And all good points Dan. I think both guys got bad advice from their agent.

    Take away 2017 and Marwin is not a starter, but a versatile bench player, not great at getting on base and a bit slow of foot. He’s not going to get everyday player money. He might end up signing for a year, looking to turn a good season into that longer contract he wants.

    Keuchel let 11.9 guys per nine get on base in 2018, with a full K per nine less. That sure slows down the game too. I don’t think he gets 21 million a year x 4. He might also have to settle for a short, prove everyone wrong type deal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just to throw salt into the wound from Dave, if you look at WHIP, the only pitchers less effective than DK were Hoyt (6.0) Deetz 1.5), and Rondon (1.322). To be fair, DK pitched 204 innings and that is hard to replace.

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  2. I’m sure most people saw the complaint from Verlander that so many free agents remain unsigned and that teams are not trying to win now. I agree with him that either of the big names could be an anchor for a team trying to reach greatness, but question whether they would sign with a team destined for 90+ losses in 2019. This is kind of the problem with DK and Marwin. You expect to get good years in 2019 and 2020…but have to be concerned what’s coming afterwards. If either looks like the final piece to the puzzle in the short term you take the risk. If you’re thinking a few years down the line it doesn’t make as much sense.

    But really what I wanted to comment on is the deGrom extension negotiation with the Mets. He’s under control through 2020 so they don’t need to do anything right now, but he’s imposed a deadline of 3/28 for any talks on this. I don’t see any issue on that – the two sides can always call each other up in June if he changes his mind. The real interesting part is that his agent (not the old agent who is his current GM) has issued a statement to players advising they consider limiting their workloads to protect themselves. MLB teams are mostly better at protecting their pitchers than NCAA teams who are famous for abusing young pitchers, but the agent is suggesting players do everything in their power to stay healthy rather than push to squeeze out innings on the field. As a fan I’m unsure how to feel – these guys are paid a king’s ransom and I expect them to give 100% effort. At the same time, I don’t want DK on the mound when he’s running on fumes instead of a rested reliever. I don’t want Springer or Correa playing so hard they land on the DL because of an insignificant play. Regardless, it looks to me like the MLBPA and the Owners are going to have a pretty good fight on their hands in a couple years….if they can make it that far.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m going to throw something out there so we can all attempt to get used to it – the disabled list is now the injured list. Why, I don’t know unless it is something politically correct relative to the disabled.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Not everyone is Nolan Ryan or even J Verlander. The Angels still owe Pujols $87 million and not exactly sure but looks like the Rangers paid Fielder $72 million to go away. So DK and MarGo are great guys and exceptional ball players. But just like the Dot Com bubble, these long expensive contracts are for healthy Superstars in their 20’s

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  5. Boys and girls, Ladies and gentlemen – today is the day! Astro pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training!!
    Now if we can hold on for another 7 weeks or so….

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  6. Last season Keuchel pitched well against:
    ARI
    BAL
    CHW
    DET
    KC
    LAA
    MIN
    SF
    Take a good look at those teams.
    Now, look at the teams that he struggled against:
    BOS
    CLE
    NYY
    OAK
    SEA
    TX
    TOR
    He started the season 3-8 and finally worked his way back to 12-11.
    I don’t think Keuchel fits into the status of pitchers who can demand big long-term deals anymore. He’s not an elite pitcher, and he definitely wasn’t elite last season.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. If DK does sign before the season starts at this time I would say he gets 3 @ 45 and an option. He may not get signed until spring training is over. At this point there has to be a reason he is not signed and I believe (IMO) is that the team doesn’t know which Keuchel will show up. I would think there’s an all around feeling that he’ll be a 33% pitcher. 1/3 for lights out, 1/3 for a good MOR or 1/3 that he crashes and burns. I don’t think any team is going to pay 20MM plus for a guy with too many unknowns. I wouldn’t do that deal. Would any of you?
    As for Marwin the same applies. I love his arm and his bat when he’s on but then there’s the downside that we’ve talked about. I predict 2 @ 24 with an option. Let’s see if my crystal ball is accurate (or even close).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Not surprisingly, Cole won the extra $2 million from the Astros in arbitration. I’m not sure how that arb hearing went….”Yes, we love the guy and would like to sign him to an extension. He was one of the 5 best pitchers in baseball last year. But he sucks so pick our number.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan, I agree with you – it seems odd the Astros went to arbitration with these guys instead of just opening the checkbook. It makes me wonder if Luhnow was trying to send a message to the agents – if they’re unwilling to discuss extensions then he’s going to waste their time going to arbitration everyone knows the Astros would lose.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Both players 29 yrs
    Both Switch Hitters
    Eduardo Escobar signs ARI 3/$21M
    That’s your comp.

    Marwin 200 TB 121 Hits 16 HR 61 R
    Escobar 277 TB 154 Hits 23 HR 75 R

    On Keuchel, we have better pitchers this season, while DK ranked last in most meaningful stats from last season’s starting staff.

    On Sept 19, 2018 Josh James continued on and stifled the once surging Mariners. We won 7-0. The same team that had trounced Keuchel the night before 9-0. That marked a solid changing of the guard in my mind, if it weren’t already present by Dallas’ very bad starts vs quality hitting teams.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure that Marwin’s agent is emphasizing his 2017 numbers in negotiations. But teams know it all.
      Just remember that James and Framber and Cionel Perez are kids and have not pitched a lot and so the book on them has not really been written yet. I loved what these youngsters did – can’t know what they will do in bigger samples.

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  10. Speaking of arbitration. This is today’s post from Astros Daily.

    2/13/1997: #Astros win and lose their arbitration case with Darryl Kile. The inconsistent pitcher asks for $1.27m more than what the Astros offer. The club prevails. Kile goes on to have an outstanding year, then shuns Houston and leaves via free agency. AstrosDaily.com/history/thisda…

    Liked by 1 person

    • What if the Astros already know what Cole and Boras are going to do? I mean, it turns out that the Astros knew way ahead of time what Keuchel was going to do. You can’t extend a player’s contract if he won’t agree to one.
      All this talk about the arbitration hearing staining the Astros chances of resigning Cole is total BS if they have already approached him and he said “no thanks”.
      We all know how forward thinking this front office is. I would be amazed if the Astros had not already approached Boras about an extension. If Boras had said “hell yes” they probably would never have gone to arbitration. If Boras said “no thanks” then arbitration “here we come”.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I believe that Marwin is still on the market because he is a 30 year old good utility player trying to get paid like a good regular positional starter. So far, teams are not willing to do that.

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  12. From mlbtraderumors – the Indians sign two former Astros and made a big Scrabble move…..

    “The Indians announced Thursday that they’ve signed right-hander Asher Wojciechowski and catcher Tim Federowicz to minor league contracts with invites to Major League Spring Training.”

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  13. Okay, I admit it. I thought Wojohichzowchoski was going to be a keeper.

    The tough thing about the Cole situation is that we want him to have a great year and help get us back to the Series. Alas, that would probably preclude us signing him into the future. But the focus has got to be to win in 2019 and then worry about how things shake out later. Damn the torpedo’s!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I closed my WordPress account…..so I have to sign in with my complete name.
    I haven’t posted in a few days because I was fighting with WordPress! On the Astros twitter line, Brian Mctaggart said Keuchel had found a team…..but I can’t find it anywhere. Steve Sparks said he thinks Keuchel is talking to the Astros.
    Hmmmmmm…WHATCHA think?!

    Liked by 2 people

      • Dan, I don’t even see a three year deal at this point. What does a four or five starter get? 10 x 3? Unless Luhnow is planning on losing both Verlander and Cole, it’s time to move on. I’m glad he’s not getting that 17.9 for a season. I just don’t see a fit at this point. He definitely moved on. Or at least he thought he had.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. OK – we need to be fair relative to Dallas Keuchel vs. the rest of the starters in the AL. In 2018:
    34 games started – Tied for first
    204.2 IP – Third
    3.74 ERA – 15th highest among qualifiers (those who threw 162 IP).
    12 wins – Tied for 15th

    He is not fourth or fifth starter in this league – he is a #2 or worse a #3 and so he has some value. Just not as much as he thinks he is.

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  16. This song is called Boras’ Restaurant – and it’s about Boras . . and a restaurant. But Boras’ restaurant is not the name of the restaurant; it’s just the name of the song. And that’s why I call this song ‘Boras’ Restaurant’.

    Marwin ordered the veal parmesan . . . at Boras’ restaurant.
    DK had a hankerin’ for chateaubriands . . . at Boras’ restaurant.
    they signed the dotted line, took the bait like a bass,
    he left them high and dry, and there they sit on their . . . [tackle box?]
    No one gets anything they want . . . at Boras’ restaurant.

    I think it’s a movement . . .

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Baseball is difficult to figure out. Well at least figure out what is in the minds of the GM’s vs the players. Kershaw gets paid more than DK and Morton combined. Yet, those two have a World Series ring. Marwin is only good enough to be a substitute for several players on the Astros. Yet, he has a WS ring. So if a person is a player – do you go for the money or do you go for the championships? It appears the answer is clear. Some had rather get paid handsomely on a last place team than take a pay cut to be with a winner. And JL is willing to let them do it.

    Liked by 1 person

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