Dallas Keuchel Addition Raises Stakes For White Sox

The White Sox now expect to compete for the AL Central crown in 2020.

Bruce Levine
December 23, 2019 - 12:51 pm

(670 The Score) The White Sox's addition of veteran left-hander Dallas Keuchel on a three-year, $55.5-million deal won't draw the attention or carry the significance of some other mega signings in the free agency bonanza this offseason, but it's nonetheless a crucial move for a franchise that has signaled a shift in its competitive phase. 

With Keuchel in the mix, the White Sox should be a legitimate competitor against the defending AL Central champion Twins and the Indians as they battle for the division title in 2020. 

The White Sox's signing of All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal in November was the first signal that they were no longer content to field a sub-.500 rebuilding team. Keuchel's addition was important in that he will help bring stability to a young rotation that was badly in need of it. Until the White Sox added a strong veteran pitcher, they couldn't seriously entertain the thought of winning the AL Central crown in 2020.

Related: White Sox still showing interest in Edwin Encarnacion

Keuchel, who turns 32 in January, isn't the same pitcher he was in winning the American League Cy Young award in 2015, but he's still a quality arm who can be counted on to take the ball every fifth day post 180 innings. He relies heavily on his sinker, slider and cut fastball, a mix that has turned him into a groundball-inducing machine in a launch angle era that has seen home runs flying out of the park at record rates.

Keuchel's 60.1% groundball rate in 2019 would've been the best in baseball if he had qualified, per Fangraphs. Keuchel didn't qualify because he made only 19 starts, waiting until June to sign with the Braves and only making his first start a few weeks before the All-Star break. Keuchel posted a 3.75 ERA and 1.37 WHIP last season.

The additions of Keuchel and veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez (on a one-year, $4.5-million deal with a team option for 2021) give the White Sox much-needed flexibility with the rest of their pitching staff. Right-hander Michael Kopech is returning after missing all of 2019 while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and while he has progressed well, the team may want to slow roll his return and limit his workload. A return to MLB action around May 1 could be a rough timeline for the 23-year-old Kopech.

Beyond Kopech, there's no guarantee for what the White Sox will get out of 27-year-old left-hander Carlos Rodon, who underwent Tommy John surgery last May. The White Sox are expected to be cautious with him as well, and a return in the second half of the season is the best-case scenario.

By fortifying their rotation with veterans, the White Sox take some pressure off their younger pitchers in Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Case. At long last, the road back toward the playoffs has finally been identified.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.