You’ve got to know when to fold ’em. It’s a very famous line that most of us know from Kenny Rogers’ song, “The Gambler.” It’s a line that is applicable in almost all walks of life, and baseball is no different. Smart organizations know when it’s time to cut bait and move on from a player that is a sunk cost and no longer providing value. While the Chicago White Sox are not a smart team by most objective measures, they have to see what the rest of us do. Dallas Keuchel is no longer a functional Major League pitcher.
Just six years removed from an American League Cy Young Award, Keuchel is a shell of his former self. The Sox have dug themselves a hole with a brutal stretch during the month of April, thanks in part to Keuchel’s poor performance. If the South Siders fancy themselves a viable contender, they must sever ties with the veteran lefty immediately so as not to jeopardize this season any further.
South Side Synopsis
Keuchel came to the White Sox ahead of the 2020 season in a move that was a bit of a shocker to the fan base. This stems largely from Keuchel being represented by super agent, Scott Boras, whom the Sox have had a notoriously bumpy relationship with over the last 20 years. Looked at as a veteran presence that could help guide a future rotation of Lucas Giolito, the recovering Michael Kopech, and developing hurlers Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez, the Sox inked the veteran southpaw to a three-year, $55.5 million deal with a vesting option for 2023.
Keuchel had a BABIP-fueled resurgence during the 2020 pandemic season that saw him post a shiny 1.99 ERA. But that figure was largely smoke and mirrors to those of us with a pulse. Since that season, his flaws have been greatly exposed.
He is a pitcher that has diminished velocity and overall stuff that simply can’t miss bats — all while struggling to induce the weak contact that was a hallmark of his peak years in Houston. Yet, the veteran continues to be one of the most talkative members of the organization, frequently expressing his displeasure to the media and, for lack of a better team, being the captain excuse maker on the White Sox roster.
The 2022 season has been a very bumpy one, in particular, through four starts. After Keuchel’s most recent debacle Sunday against the Angels, the question must be asked. How much longer can the White Sox continue sending him out there every fifth day, thus hampering the team’s ability to win a baseball game on that given day? If this team has any awareness and desire to act as a functional organization, Keuchel wouldn’t throw another pitch in a White Sox uniform. I’m not confident that will be the case, however, it is a stark reality that should be realized.
As mentioned above, Dallas Keuchel is in the final season of a three-year deal with a vesting option. There simply is no way the veteran will reach the innings requirement for his fourth-year option to vest, which is a good thing for the Chicago White Sox. Some within the fan base question whether penny pincher Jerry Reinsdorf will bite the bullet on a sunk cost and eat the remaining portion of Keuchel’s $18 million salary for 2022 in an effort to help his baseball team actually win games. But the Sox were down this road once before in recent history.
In 2016, John Danks was in the final season of a five-year, $65 million deal. The southpaw from Texas was making $15.75 million, and like Keuchel, was struggling after four starts. The similarities between the two are quite striking.
While Keuchel has underperformed based on some of his expected statistical data, the numbers still are not good by any measure. The peripheral data doesn’t look much better.
Simply put, Dallas Keuchel is not making competitive pitches and is a detriment to the White Sox’s chances to win games when he takes the baseball. If the organization was willing to move on from Danks in the last season of his deal with a team that masqueraded as a contender, they should be willing to do the same with Keuchel in the heart of their contention window. Not doing so would be organizational negligence at this point.
As of this writing, the team is 9-13 and sits 4.5 games back of Minnesota in the AL Central. Yes, there’s a lot of baseball left to be played. But as I detailed recently when examining the Sox’s upcoming schedule, they have left themselves no margin for error with their poor start.
Continuing to give Keuchel the ball every fifth day only digs them a deeper hole that they will need to climb out of if they are to win the AL Central for a second consecutive season. As Dr. Rick would say in the famed Progressive commercials, “We all see it, we all see it.” By “it,” I’m referring to the fact that Keuchel is cooked, of course. Any daily observer of this team knows that he simply has nothing left and isn’t giving the Sox an opportunity to win baseball games.
The Time Is Now
The schedule this week gives the Chicago White Sox an ideal opportunity to move on from this sunk cost in the best interest of this organization. Having an off-day on Thursday before heading to Boston for a three-game weekend set would allow the Sox to keep their rotation on its regular schedule by not throwing Dallas Keuchel to the wolves at Fenway Park on Saturday for his next turn in the rotation. Tony La Russa could give the ball back to Dylan Cease on regular rest and position his team to potentially win a series on the road.
If the White Sox desired to give Cease an extra day in the interest of long-term plans this season, they could pivot to southpaw Tanner Banks, who has acquitted himself very nicely in his initial cup of coffee at the big-league level. The South Siders could use Banks as an opener and try to utilize their bullpen not far removed from an off-day to cover the full 27 outs it would need on that day. This is a more viable option than allowing Keuchel to toe the rubber against a Red Sox lineup that, while struggling, is still potent enough to take advantage of a jobber like the veteran lefty.
Waiting In The Wings
The timing to move on from Dallas Keuchel aligns with the readiness of recently signed Johnny Cueto. The veteran righty appears to be close to being deemed ready to make the flight to Chicago.
The writing appears to be on the wall for Keuchel regardless. Cueto’s readiness will only expedite what is coming sooner rather than later. At this juncture, there is no reason for Keuchel to throw another pitch in a White Sox uniform. This team can ill afford to let him throw a pitch in Boston this weekend or any other time this season.
The Chicago White Sox must act with a sense of urgency to avoid digging themselves too deep a hole this season. Dallas Keuchel no longer has any utility for this team, and if they are serious about their aspirations for this season, it is time for them to act like a serious organization and move on from the veteran hurler. They did it once before with John Danks under similar circumstances. Let’s just hope they are willing to do the same this time around. Diamond Dallas, you’re done.
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