Poor Kyle Lohse. Poor, soul-patched Kyle Lohse. The guy goes out and has what was easily the best season of his career in a free agent year, and no one seems to be biting. MLB Trade Rumors has reported that Lohse hasn’t actually received a single real offer since declaring himself a free agent (which I imagine he did from a mountain top), and he seemed a mortal lock to rake in a three or four-year deal worth something like $15 million annually. Seriously, if Brandon League can get a multi-year deal worth $21 million, why can’t a solid starter like Lohse pull in double that?
I’m not saying Lohse won’t still get the fruit of free agency’s supple loins (ew), but he sure does seem to be the victim of dastardly circumstances. The teams that seemed most likely to make a play for the control specializing right-hander have already spent their wad elsewhere, and that isn’t helping matters when it comes to Lohse securing a shiny new contract. The Dodgers landed Zack Greinke a while ago, and they’ve certainly done all they can to shove the rest of their considerable financial glut at anyone who would take it. The Tigers brought Anibal Sanchez back into the fold, the Angels opted to add Joe Blanton to their rotation, and the Red Sox are the proud owners of a used Ryan Dempster. It seems like Lohse’s main problem now is a lack of a viable destination.
So where is it that Kyle Lohse will ultimately arrive? It’s honestly very difficult to say at this point. He has plenty of bragging rights to deploy at a team’s request: he logged a 2.86 ERA, 3.51 FIP, and 1.62 BB/9 rate across 211 innings of work in 2012 en route to a 3.6 FanGraphs’ WAR campaign. That’s a valuable pitcher, but maybe there are still lingering concerns about the things that teams are totally rightful to have concerns about. Lohse is already 34 as of last October, he has a checkered past when it comes to debilitating injuries, and he simply hasn’t been good enough for long enough that teams feel like shelling out a bunch of cash. Those would all be valid arguments, but they aren’t arguments that have stopped teams from signing other questionable starting pitchers or even yawn-inducing relievers.
It seems a lot more likely that Lohse simply hasn’t connected with the right suitor yet. The majority of the most sought-after free agents on the market found homes weeks or even months ago, and those are the guys who have pocketed the money and the roster spots Lohse is vying for. It’s certainly possible that teams are scared of Lohse for legitimate reasons, but I think the truth of the matter is that there simply aren’t many options when it comes to teams that still have the money or rotation spots to give the guy. I’m happy for Lohse getting a shot to earn some more money after his last two solid season as a Cardinal, but it’s getting a little awkward as days continue to pass without him being in a new uniform.
Another very real factor affecting Lohse’s ability to sign somewhere is that inking him to a contract means surrendering a draft pick. Since we’re Cardinal fans, we’re totally ready for that to happen, but I’d imagine the list of teams in on Lohse loses even more suitors when a draft pick has to be lost in the process. Teams seem to be getting the grasp of how valuable high draft picks can be in today’s game (or really yesterday’s game too), and if Lohse is more of a three or four starter than anything else, he becomes significantly less attractive when he requires the forfeit of another potential building block.
I understand the hesitancy surrounding giving up a draft pick or signing Lohse, but I think there are several teams out there that would be wise to make a move on him while there’s a discernible lull in the action. We’ve made fun of Lohse plenty during his time with the Cardinals for various reasons, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s still a very valuable mid-rotation commodity. As Spencer pointed out as the regular season drew to a close in 2012, Lohse will probably be able to earn what he’s paid; he could be a serious asset to a contender, and while he may not be a bargain, possible contenders looking to solidify their rotations would do well to get in contact with the pitch-to-contact master and see what happens. If Lohse is the piece that helps secure a legitimate shot at the postseason, and he really could fill that role for a number of teams, giving up a draft pick might not be as huge a loss as perceived. Sometimes draft picks and prospects can be overvalued in today’s game despite their extreme worth; the goal here is still to win baseball games and try to take home a World Series championship, and there are a lot worse ways to bulk up a rotation than adding Kyle Lohse.