Braves starter Dallas Keuchel turned in another gem on Wednesday night against the Phillies, allowing a lone run on three hits and three walks with eight strikeouts over six innings. The Braves went on to win 3-1, taking their second of three possible victories in the four-game set. Keuchel now has a 0.97 ERA across 37 innings spanning his last six starts. Overall, he’s sporting a 3.35 ERA since joining the Braves.
The Braves, you may recall, signed Keuchel to a one-year, $21.21 million deal on June 7. Because of the general stagnation of the free agent market plus the draft pick compensation that was attached to him, Keuchel remained unsigned through the offseason, through spring training, and through the first two months of the season before ultimately signing with the Braves.
The Phillies were among the 29 other teams that passed on Keuchel. After Zach Eflin‘s abbreviated start on Wednesday, the club has an aggregate rotation ERA of 4.56. One wonders if the Phillies might be leading the NL Wild Card or perhaps even the NL East if they had forked over the cash to bring in Keuchel ahead of the start of the regular season. 25 starts and roughly 175 innings of 3.35 ERA ball — or even 3.50-3.75 — sure would have been nice.
Keuchel was asked after the game if he had any extra motivation because he was spurned by the Phillies as a free agent. He responded, via Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, “I mean, if you don’t come calling, what is there for me to be mad about? I think a lot of those guys over there in the front office are second-guessing themselves, and, I mean, I would too.”
When told of Keuchel’s comment, Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper — who signed a then-record 13-year, $330 million contract in February — was in agreement with the lefty. Harper said, “He’s a Cy Young winner for a reason. If you have an opportunity to go out and get a guy like that, I think all 29 teams should have that. But that’s how the game is right now and that’s how it goes.”
While both players have a point that teams aren’t spending on free agents the way they used to, pointing a finger at the Phillies isn’t exactly the best way to make that point. Not only did the Phillies pledge nearly one-third of a billion dollars to Harper, they also signed Andrew McCutchen (three years, $50 million) and David Robertson (two years, $23 million) while trading for J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura. After a plethora of injuries and Odúbel Herrera’s suspension left the team short-handed, the Phillies brought in Jay Bruce (who also got hurt) and Corey Dickerson, as well as Jason Vargas and Drew Smyly. Could the Phillies have afforded $20-25 million more per year for Keuchel on a multi-year deal? Certainly. But it’s more productive to point fingers at teams that truly aren’t spending money rather than the teams like the Phillies that have been relatively liberal with opening up the checkbook.