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Fantasy Trade Review: Jose Abreu for Dallas Keuchel

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Wherein I breakdown a real trade question from Twitter to decide which side wins.

Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Today’s post is inspired entirely by this tweet sent to the Fake Teams account (@faketeams).

It should be noted I did not ask this user’s permission before using his tweet in this post, but it was a public tweet so I hope he (or she)’s not mortified to have his question forever enshrined on this corner of the web. Maybe if we’re realllllly quiet, Lets Do Sports will make an appearance in the comment section. Shhhhhhh!

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As an aside, may I just complement this user on his/her avatar. Rookie of the Year is an underappreciated baseball classic and nails arm and shoulder mechanics in pitching. That’s why, to this day, most pitchers intentionally slip and fall at some point in their careers to boost their velocity. Pitcher velocities have gone up significantly since the movie came out in 1993. Coincidence? I think not. Fun fact: Thomas Ian Nicholas (the titular character’s actor) is an accomplished musician that has released 7 rock/pop albums.

Anyway, I was very interested in this potential trade for three reasons: I have written about both players this year, it is a hitter for pitcher trade, and it seemed balanced at first glance.

Let’s break down this trade.

I’m going to set aside the league settings and team needs for a minute and just focus on the two players on their own merits. ESPN’s player rater for 5x5 leagues has Keuchel at 7.69, good for #35 overall. Abreu sits at 5.74 (#84). That makes it seem like an open-and-shut case, but Keuchel is currently on his way back from a neck injury that landed him on the DL and Abreu is the rare hitter that can contribute in batting average, homers, runs, and RBI.

Keuchel has pitched 75.2 innings with a 1.67 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 2.90 xFIP, 24.4% K%, 6.4% BB%, career-high 67.4% GB%, and career-high 10.7% SwStr%. Sure, there’s probably some regression coming for his ERA but with that pitching stat line, it won’t be that harsh. He’s stranded 89% of runners and carries a 0.222 BABIP which suggests lots of good fortune but given his silly ground ball rate and low walk rate, it doesn’t seem crazy that he could maintain rates far from league average. Those are all ace-like stats.

Here’s the only real problem for Keuchel: injuries. His 75.2 innings puts him at #108 in baseball this year. He’s been out since June 2 and missed some time in May as well. Last season, he only made it to 168 innings due to injuries. He’s been elite when healthy, but how much do you want to invest in a 29-year-old that’s had long DL stints in two consecutive seasons?

Hold that thought while I jump over to Abreu. He’s been doing Jose Abreu things once again this year: 16 HR, 55 R, 61 RBI, 0.298 average, below average walk and strikeout rates. His 0.214 ISO matches his mark from 2015 when he hit 30 HR. As a bonus, his Hard% and FB% are both at career highs this year. His plate discipline is also at a career best with career lows in swinging strike % and out-of-zone chase rate. Like with Keuchel, it’s hard to find any issues in his 2017 stat line. Unlike Keuchel, he hasn’t had a DL stint this season and seems to be in good health.

Honestly, the only “knock” against him I can think of is that with homers at an all time high this year, “only” 16 HR as a first baseman is not elite anymore. He is tied with Brandon Belt for 16th best among first basemen. He trails the leaders (Bellinger, Smoak, Votto, and Morrison) by 10+ homers. Again, this is nitpicking at its finest, I just thought I should point it out. If you want to look beyond just home runs, he’s 12th among 1B in wOBA, 11th in wRC+, and 17th in ISO. It’s easy to look at his overall line and be impressed until you realize just how high the bar is for first basemen right now. Thanks, Cody Bellinger. Oh, and Logan Morrison and Justin Smoak are elite offensive first basemen now? What a country!

Okay, now that we’ve looked at each individually out of context, let’s bring the context in. Lets Do Sports was looking to improve in pitching, which is incredibly scarce this season, and has three very capable backups at first base in Alonso, Shaw, and Reynolds. Alsono and Reynolds are #10 and #8, respectively among first basemen in wOBA, so they are actually ahead of Abreu. It’s a 12 team league and they keep 12 players forever. Both Keuchel and Abreu are no-brainer keepers and both are near 30 (Abreu is just over 30, Keuchel just under). Given all the backup at first on that roster and a need for pitching, I think this trade gets a thumbs up, despite Keuchel’s injury issues. Keuchel’s elite command and ground ball tendencies should age well, so I think he is a good long-term keeper.

If I were to evaluate this trade in a vacuum without league or roster info, I would still go with Keuchel because elite starting pitching is the scarcest I’ve ever seen it in fantasy baseball and Kershaw and Strasburg both hit the DL this week to make it even worse. If you can get an ace like Keuchel while giving up a borderline top 10 first baseman (albeit a very consistent one) on a team that’s traded away many of its best players and has a weak lineup, I do it every time.

I apologize in advance to everyone that owns Keuchel out there because I may have just jinxed him and his injury. Stay healthy Dallas! Lets Do Sports is counting on you! We’re all counting on you!

I hope you enjoyed this trade “tale of the tape.” I will try to do more of these as we approach the fantasy trade deadline period of mid-August. Tschus!