White Sox, left-hander Dallas Keuchel in agreement on 3-year, $55M deal

A day after signing lefty Gio Gonzalez, the Sox reach terms with lefty starter Dallas Keuchel

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Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the White Sox Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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The White Sox added another piece to their starting rotation Saturday night.

This one packs even more punch than the last one.

The Sox and and left-hander Dallas Keuchel have reached an agreement on a three-year, $55 million contract, industry sources confirmed. The deal reportedly has a vesting fourth year that could take it to $75 million.

Keuchel, 32, is a former Cy Young winner, two-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner who pitched to a 3.75 ERA over 19 starts and 112 13 innings for the Braves in 2019. The addition of a proven, quality starter to a rotation that includes young right-handers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease and lefty Gio Gonzalez — signed Friday to a one-year deal — should equip them to contend in the AL Central in 2020. Right-hander Michael Kopech and lefty Carlos Rodon are expected to join the rotation at some point in 2020, Kopech possibly early in the season and Rodon no sooner than halfway through. Both will be coming back from Tommy John surgery.

The Sox have not confirmed the deal, which should be announced early this week. Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported the deal.

What does it mean for them?

When Gonzalez, 34, agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with a club option for 2021, it provided a needed addition for back-end depth in their young rotation. By adding Keuchel, they add a piece who can slot in behind Giolito, a 2019 All-star and the likely Opening Day starter in 2020, and signals their intention to contend after three mostly forgettable seasons in their rebuild.

Will they? The additions of Keuchel and Gonzalez give needed stability to a promising but mostly unproven rotation. The bullpen, while a strength of a 72-89 team last year, needs an upgrade or two and repeat performances from those who made it competitive. And the Sox’ defense, which ranked in the bottom tier of baseball, has to somehow get better. The Sox should be positioned to be buyers at trade deadline in 2020 looking to play meaningful games in September.

While a welcome addition, Keuchel — who is represented by agent Scott Boras — was not the Sox’ top target for that slot. They offered more than $120 million for 29-year-old right-hander Zack Wheeler, who signed a five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies Dec. 9, and also made an unsuccessful bid for Jordan Lyles. Keuchel and lefty Hyun-jin Ryu were the top two pitchers left in the free-agent market.

The efforts to land Wheeler and Lyles signaled the Sox’ intention to field a winning team after seven straight losing outfits, and Keuchel’s addition is their third significant financial commitment this offseason. The Sox also signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal and signed first baseman Jose Abreu to a three-year, $50 million deal. Additionally, there is Gonzalez’ agreement and a one-year, $5.4 million commitment to catcher James McCann. The Sox also traded for 24-year-old Nomar Mazara, who figures to be the starting right fielder. Mazara’s projected salary in arbitration is $5.7 million per MLB Trade Rumors.

The veteran group will be blended with the Sox’ young core of Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson and rookies Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal.

What does Keuchel project to bring? He does not possess the same velocity he won the 2005 Cy Young Award with as an Astro, but has been effective relying on a sinker, slider, cutter, changeup mix with velocity topping averaging 89-90 mph at best. He averaged 7.3 strikeouts and 3.1 walks per nine innings last season while producing a 60 percent ground ball rate, the best in the majors. The Sox’ young pitchers also figure to benefit from Keuchel’s knowledge and experience.

Keuchel was a victim in last year’s cold free agent market, not signing with the Braves (for $13 million) on June 9 after posting a 3.74 ERA over 204 2/3 innings in his final season with the Astros. In eight seasons he owns a 3.67 ERA, 84-71 won-lost recrd and 7.2 and 2.6 strikeout and walk ratios, respectively.

He is the first Boras client since outfielder Austin Jackson in 2016 to be signed by the Sox.

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