On Saturday, the White Sox designated Dallas Keuchel for assignment. Today, Lance Lynn will make his first rehab start for the Charlotte Knights.
These developments are related, in the sense that Lynn’s firmer timetable added to the bulk of fallbacks that created a few lines of defense against the chance Keuchel could be missed. There’s Vince Velasquez on the 26-man roster, Davis Martin on the 40-man, and Reynaldo López in the bullpen. If Lynn makes his three starts without setbacks — and Eloy Jiménez is a cautionary tale against assuming smooth sailing — that puts him back on both rosters around Father’s Day. The Sox are banking on not needing to blow through all their options by then. And even if they did, the way Keuchel had pitched meant he might not have fared better than the standard call-up.
This is all why Rick Hahn said he felt like it was time to move on, although he tried to leaven the comments about Keuchel’s steep decline …
“We certainly got what we expected in 2020 and in the first half or so in ’21,” said general manager Rick Hahn, who spent the early portions of his Saturday media session lauding the first half of Keuchel’s tenure. “Unfortunately the latter half of his White Sox career didn’t pan out the way we had hoped. With any free-agent signing, there’s a certain level of expectation, but there’s also reasonable projections involved on our end at least in terms of potential decline. In this case, I’d say the decline occurred a little more precipitously at the end than we anticipated.”
Before taking questions from the dozen reporters circled around him Saturday, Hahn contextualized Keuchel’s contributions to the club over the last three seasons.
Keuchel posted a 1.99 ERA in 11 starts during the shortened 60-game 2020 season, finishing fifth in AL Cy Young voting. The Sox made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in 2020 and 2021, the first time they’ve done that in franchise history.
“And that very likely doesn’t happen without Dallas’ contributions over those two seasons,” Hahn said.
That’s true enough, and it might be easier for everybody to compartmentalize Keuchel’s ups and downs were the White Sox otherwise in sound position. The DFA does address the biggest issue on the pitching side, but it does nothing to solve the team’s persistent offensive problems, which dragged into the opener of this weekend’s two-game set with the Cubs.
There are smaller tweaks that can be tried — less Gavin Sheets and more Jake Burger, less Josh Harrison and more Yolbert Sánchez? — but the shortest distance to an average offense from whatever the White Sox are doing now relies on Yasmani Grandal and Yoán Moncada providing production from the left-hand side.
That concern is heightened by Moncada’s unavailability, which is stretching to a third consecutive missed game.
Hahn said it’s a quadriceps issue for Moncada and it won’t force him to the injured list. Moncada’s track record is checkered enough for that claim to require verification, but beyond that, it fails to reassure at a time where Moncada is hitting .136/.177/.254. If his condition is “trying to stay off the injured list,” then the upside over somebody like Jake Burger is lacking.
After this series, the White Sox head to Toronto, but the entire roster won’t be making the trip. Hahn said two players will have to go on the restricted list because they’re unvaccinated, and we’ll see what kind of impact that has come Tuesday.