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MLB Hot Stove Update: Julio Teheran, C.J. Cron, Dallas Keuchel, and more!

Heath examines the Hot Stove league with a fantasy baseball slant.

USA Today/Pete Rogers Illustrations

This will likely be the last Hot Stove league update for a few days. I’ll get through Christmas at least, and then I have to hit the road for a couple of days to visit family. But the good news is that positional weeks are upon us at Fake Teams! We’ll kick off the 2020 fantasy baseball season soon enough, and that is exciting stuff. Buckle up!

Julio Teheran signs with the Angels

It’s a one-year, $9 million for the 28-year-old. Teheran turns 29 in January, and is a solid innings eater for the Halos. He’s one of the most durable arms in the MLB, having logged at least 170+ innings in seven consecutive seasons. And I’m the Braves fan who once left Teheran for dead, especially against left-handed hitters. However, he’s posted ERA marks of 3.94 and 3.81 in each of the last two years, no doubt aided by BABIPs of .217 and .266, respectively. That may not sound sustainable, but Teheran has allowed a .268 BABIP over the course of his career and has historically outperformed his FIP. Jose Suarez or Patrick Sandoval would seemingly get bumped from the rotation with this addition, so it’s a situation to monitor for you deep leaguers if you were targeting either of those two. However, this bunch of pitchers couldn’t stay healthy at all in 2019, so Teheran’s addition doesn’t necessarily mean any one of these guys becomes automatically irrelevant in those large formats.

C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop sign with the Tigers

Don’t look now (really, it’s ugly) but the Tigers will have a modicum of MLB talent on their squad in 2019. Cron has rapped out 55 homers over the past two years (30, 25) and has batted exactly .253 in each of those seasons. Cron trimmed his strikeout rate to 21.4% in 2019, and this growth was supported by a dip in swinging strike rate. Cron’s 11.8% mark was only a hair worse than league average, which was 11.1% last year. He’s also league average with regard to contact rates. He takes a hit in OBP leagues, but in standard formats he’s a cheap 25+ homer play, with potential for more. He projects to bat cleanup for this offense. He’s got a current ADP of about 290, about 15 picks after Joey Votto, who is good for nothing right now. Okay, maybe you can talk yourself into Votto in an OBP format...but he’s not giving you dingers.

Schoop is a free-swinging guy who had a heinous 17.7% swinging strike rate last year. That mark would have ranked third worst in the majors had he qualified, behind only Javier Baez and Franmil Reyes. That’s three straight years with an increasing swinging strike rate, and three years with a rising strikeout rate. For a guy who has stolen 8 bases total in his career, you’re basically banking on enough homers to justify a .250ish average. Cron hits the ball much harder and should have a better batting order slot...I’d much prefer taking a chance on him and finding a cheap shortstop to fill my MI slot instead of banking on Schoop. But if you find yourself in a bind and need the pop, Schoop is at least a logical play. He and Cron should get all the playing time they can handle in Detroit.

Dallas Keuchel (and Gio Gonzalez) sign with the White Sox

Keuchel gets a three-year deal worth $55.5 million, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s a division with the Tigers, Royals, Indians, and Twins. Moving the AL could have certainly been worse than this landing spot. Keuchel likely slots in as the No. 2 behind Lucas Giolito here, with Reynaldo Lopez, Gio Gonzalez, and Dylan Cease rounding out the rotation in some order. That’s not bad given the improving offense and eventual returns of Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon from Tommy John surgery. Keuchel turns 32 in January, and posted a 3.75 ERA in a shortened 2019 season due to not being signed until June. Keuchel isn’t a high velocity guy, topping out around 88-89 mph on average. What he does is eat innings and induce ground balls, and his 60.1% ground ball rate in 2019 was as healthy as ever. With a normal offseason routine, he should return to 170+ innings in 2019. It’s not an ideal park, however. An ERA over 4.00 would not surprise. Couple that with a lack of strikeouts, and I’m probably uninterested in Keuchel no matter what his cost is. I can find better upside. Cole Hamels (now in Atlanta), Scott Oberg (for saves) or Michael Pineda (just weather the month-ish suspension) make better targets in my opinion. And that was just a cursory glance at names in his vicinity.

Gio Gonzalez is 34 years old and on a one-year deal worth $5 million for the White Sox. I’d love to write him off completely, but he reunites with Yasmani Grandal (they were teammates in Milwaukee) and that pairing crushed it in 2019 over a decent stretch. Here’s some propaganda:

Gonzalez could definitely make it into streamer consideration in 2019 and is a name to keep in mind, especially when he finds himself on the road within his division (hello again, Tigers). He’s posted two straight years with a walk rate over 10%, so let’s not go crazy, though.

Lastly, I hate to break all your hearts...but Josh Donaldson is coming back to my Atlanta Braves. I know some of you were wondering. Wonder no more. Please note that I have no insider information to back this take up, only my unabashed Braves fandom...