It might have seemed a sudden turn of events when free-agent starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel signed with the Braves last week. But it apparently was the culmination of months of quiet mutual interest.
Keuchel said Monday night that his agent, Scott Boras, and Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos were in “constant communication” during the off-season, including talk of a possible multi-year deal.
“Scott expressed early the interest I had in Atlanta, so Alex knew that and the whole front office (knew it),” Keuchel said. “There was never a lack of communication between both sides.
“They did” show interest in a multi-year deal, Keuchel said of the Braves. “We just really didn’t get to a conclusion for that, obviously.
“But, hey, I’m confident in myself, and I think Alex is, too. I mean, it’s still open on the table. … It’d be nice to be here for a while, but I’m going to take the next four months and just see how that plays out and hopefully get this team back to a division title again.”
Keuchel said the communication with the Braves “kind of died down a little bit” in mid-to-late April. The closer the amateur draft drew, the less likely it was that a team would sign him before then because it would lose a draft pick as compensation for doing so. Compensation no longer applied as of June 3, the first day of the draft, and 72 hours later Keuchel and the Braves agreed on a $13 million contract for the rest of the season.
“It’s a tough gig with a draft pick attached to you,” said Keuchel, the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner. “It’s been a weird couple of offseasons. There’s quite a few things wrong with the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) right now, but we won’t get into that. I mean, we can talk about that later.”
The subject clearly is a sore one.
“I’m kind of getting heated,” he said upon broaching the topic.
Keuchel pitched his first game in the Braves organization Monday night, working seven scoreless innings for the low-A Rome Braves against the Charleston RiverDogs, a Yankees affiliate. The 31-year-old left-hander allowed just one hit, struck out nine and walked one. He threw 77 pitches, 55 of them strikes, in a predictably dominant performance against the young RiverDogs lineup. It was Keuchel’s first time on the mound in a game since the American League Championship Series last October.
Asked afterward how many more minor-league starts he’ll need before joining Atlanta’s starting rotation, Keuchel said: “That’s a really good question. I think (Tuesday and Wednesday) will really tell me how my body feels. ... But just thinking about it, maybe one more. But we’ll see.”
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