Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 Cy Young Award winner, reached an agreement on Thursday to join the Atlanta Braves after sitting out more than a third of the season. He made the deal just a day after Craig Kimbrel, one of the best closers in the game, ended a similar exile by agreeing to join the Chicago Cubs on a three-year, $43 million contract.
Keuchel agreed to a one-year deal for a little over $21 million, which will pay him roughly $13 million when prorated, according to a person with knowledge of the deal who requested anonymity because it had not been publicly announced.
Keuchel, 31, became a free agent in the off-season after seven years with the Houston Astros, turning down the team’s $17.9 million qualifying offer. But he did not find a new employer, in part because M.L.B. rules require teams to give up draft picks if, before a certain time, they sign free agents whose previous teams made qualifying offers.
But starting Monday, when baseball’s amateur draft began, teams could sign Keuchel without giving up a pick, changing the equation.
The lack of interest in Keuchel and Kimbrel until now had prompted some critics to note that teams had signed and used far inferior pitchers. In the past, the pair’s performance histories might have set them up for very lucrative long-term contracts. But both pitchers are 31, and teams have shown a greater reluctance in recent years to make such commitments to players of that age.
Keuchel won 20 games in his Cy Young year and is 76-63 over all with a career earned run average of 3.66. Though his age may have deterred offers of a long-term deal, Keuchel was notably durable last season, facing 874 batters, more than any other major league pitcher.
He is also known for his fielding, having won three Gold Gloves. During the Astros’ run to the World Series title in 2017, he went 3-2 in five starts with a 3.58 E.R.A.
He joins a Braves team that sits in second place in the National League East, two games behind the Philadelphia Phillies and three ahead of the Mets.
Tyler Kepner contributed reporting.
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