Atlanta, GA

Veteran Southpaws Won’t Follow Moyer Model

IBWAA

By Dan Schlossberg

Aging lefthanded starters, once hot commodities in baseball, seem to be a threatened species.

Just this week, J.A. Happ retired and Dallas Keuchel received his unconditional release from the Chicago White Sox.

Unlike Jamie Moyer, the soft-tossing southpaw who nearly celebrated his 50th birthday in the majors, Happ has decided to play dad after finding few takers during his free agency. At the same time, Keuchel finds himself back in the free-agent field for the second time.

The latter signed a three-year, $55.5 million deal with the Chicago White Sox before the 2020 season and had a great year, finishing with a 1.99 ERA that earned him a fifth-place showing in the American League’s Cy Young Award voting that fall.

But he’s been in free-fall ever since.

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Dallas KeuchelAtlanta Braves social media

Once a ground-ball master, Keuchel posted an unsightly 5.28 ERA last year and a 7.88 mark – with as many walks as strikeouts – during a 2022 stint that included eight starts.

Any club that signs him would owe Keuchel only the pro-rated MLB minimum of $700,000. The White Sox would be on the hook for the rest.

Happ happened to spend parts of 15 years in the majors, pitching for both good and bad clubs.

“It got to the point where it was Opening Day, and I turned the first game on, and I talked to my wife, Morgan, and said ’What are you feeling?’ She just kind of looked at me and said, ’A little anxiety.’

“I wanted to turn it on to see what I felt, too, and I didn’t maybe feel what I needed to feel in order to think I wanted to keep doing this. I felt like that was a sign, like ’OK, it’s time to go.’

“Even though I had put the work in to be ready if the right situation came, I felt like it was time to move on and be a dad and dive into the kids. … It was emotional — something I didn’t expect. I called my agent that day, right after we turned that game on, and said, ’I think this is it.’

In Happ’s best year, 2016, he was 20-4 for the Toronto Blue Jays. But his 162-game average, according to Baseball-Reference.com, was 13-10.

Keuchel, still just 34, also had a 20-win season – a rarity in these days of pitch counts and five-man rotations. A workhorse who averaged more than 200 innings a season, Keuchel won a Cy Young Award in 2015, while pitching for the Houston Astros, and had a career ERA of 3.86.

In addition to the Astros and White Sox, he also spent half a season in Atlanta, where he split 16 decisions and pitched less effectively as the 2019 season wore on.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Braves sign him again as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Other possible suitors include the Mets – with Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom sidelined – as well as the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Padres.

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