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April 08, 2019

MLB rumors: With Dallas Keuchel's asking price reportedly down, will Phillies pounce?

It's a little early in the season for us to determine whether the Phillies need help on their starting rotation.

In fact, after all four of the Phils' top four starters have made a pair of starts, it is actually Aaron Nola sporting the highest ERA (7.00) after nine innings on the mound. Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin have looked great while Nick Pivetta, like Nola, has had a slow start.

The Phillies' fifth starter, Vince Velasquez, makes his debut Monday night after the schedule allowed the team to skip him in the rotation the first time through. 

The season is eight games old. Why are we talking about this right now?

Well, former Cy Young award winning pitcher Dallas Keuchel — still unsigned while he throws (he is said to be throwing 95-pitch bullpen sessions regularly) and stays in shape waiting for an opportunity — is reportedly lowering his asking price.

This is news to the Phillies, who would likely be interested in Keuchel if one of two criteria were met:

  1. If he were willing to sign a short-term deal
  2. If he were willing to sign for a price that would keep the Phillies under the luxury tax

The Phils have around $18 million left before they start paying MLB a tax. In theory, this space will be used if not eclipsed when the trade deadline arrives in July — as Philadelphia will no doubt be buyers. The key for Phillies management would be to try and minimize how long they are locked in to paying a luxury tax due to contracts with older players.

It's possible Keuchel, still just 31-years-old, could be a perfect option for the team if it doesn't want to trade for a player with a gigantic contract already. Or if it doesn't want to dish out prospects.

Keuchel turned down a longterm, lower dollar offer from the Astros, and he and his agent Scott Boras (also the agent of Phillies' Bryce Harper) held firm in their ask of $25 million per year throughout the offseason. That number has come down as the 2019 season enters it's second full week. 

The Phillies should be prepared to step in if the price is right — or if they do not get what they are hoping for from Velasquez. While the farm system does offer some very intriguing options, there is no one really ready to step in and be an everyday starter currently in Reading or Lehigh Valley. 

Any longterm upgrade or replacement in the rotation, at least for the team to continue to contend for the NL East crown, will likely come from outside the organization.

Reports seem to suggest Keuchel is no closer to finding a team now than he was this offseason. But it's nice to know there is a pretty good back up plan for the Phillies if they need it.

That is, unless someone else snatches him up first.

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