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Kyle Lohse is still available

Mar 2, 2013, 10:00 PM EDT

St Louis Cardinals v San Francisco Giants - Game Seven Getty Images

You might have forgotten, in the excitement of the start of spring training baseball and the World Baseball Classic, that starter Kyle Lohse is still teamless. The right-handed Lohse, who finished 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA with the Cardinals last year, has been unable to find a team willing to give him the contract he and agent Scott Boras expected going into the off-season. Buster Olney, for example, reported that some agents and general managers felt Lohse could command a deal in the $60-75 million range back in October.

There are some legitimate reasons to be wary of Lohse. He is 34 years old and three years removed from surgery on his right forearm. As research from Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs shows, the older you are and the more you have suffered injuries, the more of an injury risk you become going forward. Additionally, for teams who won’t be picking in the top-ten in the upcoming amateur draft, they would have to surrender their first round pick to sign Lohse.

Lohse, for the last two seasons, has also had results that lay in contradiction with some Sabermetric stats such as xFIP. The thought goes that a pitcher has very little control on the outcomes of batted balls, so a pitcher who has a BABIP far away from .300 in either direction will regress back to .300 in future years. For example, Roy Halladay has a career 3.31 ERA and Adam Eaton has a career 4.94 ERA, but the two are separated by only five points in career BABIP, .293 to .298. Lohse’s BABIP finished at .269 and .262 the last two seasons. As a result, his ERA (3.39, 2.86) was vastly lower than his xFIP (4.04, 3.96). As front offices have become more and more statistically-oriented, it is no surprise to see some apprehension in offering a rich, long-term deal to Lohse.

At FanGraphs, Jack Moore suggests Lohse should take a “pillow contract”. That is, a one-year deal with the intent to continue to build value. Moore cites various pillow contracts that have been given over the years, and the results are mixed. However, it worked out for the most recent player in Edwin Jackson. Jackson took a one-year, $11 million deal with the Nationals, pitched reasonably well, and turned that into a four-year, $52 million contract with the Cubs.

  1. unclemosesgreen - Mar 2, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    Hey fellas – I’m the steak – anyone hungry yet? Anyone?

  2. unclemosesgreen - Mar 2, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    Wow – groundbreaking research by Jeff Zimmerman on the effects of age and injury – someone get this report to Ruben and the PhaithPhul STAT! Apparently having more injuries and getting older doesn’t improve your ability.

  3. tfbuckfutter - Mar 2, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    No one wants to pay a ton of money to a below average pitcher after a career year in an environment that regularly lends itself to below average pitchers having career years?

    That’s weird. I guess the Royals are slightly smarter than anyone, including Lohse’s agent, realized.

    • tuberippin - Mar 3, 2013 at 3:22 AM

      “HA HA! Take that, Boras! We’ll just …. pay Ervin Santana $13,000,000.”

  4. thebadguyswon - Mar 2, 2013 at 10:28 PM

    Teams are getting smarter. They arent going to overpay for a guy in his 30s coming off a career year. Add in the draft pick lost and its game over. The union really screwed the free agents by letting MLB attach the draft picks. oh well…see ya in June, Kyle.

  5. Walk - Mar 2, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    Looking at his age and recent surgery mentioned and the fact he is coming off a great year means he will most likely regress. Add in the lost draft pick which has become more valuable in most teams viewpoints in recent years and it is no wonder he has not signed. Then he also has boras as an agent and boras has been known to ask for the moon, so yeah no surprise he has not signed. I am fuzzy on the new rules but i think there is a point when a draft pick is not associated with him being signed so i would look for him to sign around that point. Best thing he could have done is made it onto a wbc roster and showcase himself there, at least he could have got his spring work in.

    • jwbiii - Mar 2, 2013 at 11:40 PM

      It’s the first day of the draft, which is usually the first Monday in June and the point of badguys’ last sentence.

  6. derklempner - Mar 3, 2013 at 12:10 AM

    I’d love to see the Cubs pick him up for $12 million or less for one year. I think he’s deserving of that much money even if he does regress a bit, but I’m more interested in what the Cubs could get for him at the trade deadline if he pitches anywhere close to what he did last year.

    If they can offer both Ryan Dempster (in late 2008) and Edwin Jackson (in late 2012) four years for $52 million, then I think they could offer about the same average of $13 million for one year to Lohse.

  7. mj1818 - Mar 3, 2013 at 12:32 AM

    You said the magic words of death…Scott Boras.

    • jwbiii - Mar 3, 2013 at 8:33 PM

      I know this a popular meme among fans, but it’s ignorant. List the teams that don’t do business with him.

  8. randygnyc - Mar 3, 2013 at 12:36 AM

    Why doesn’t lohse sign an option deal? 1 year for 10 million. Year 2 a player only option where an average base salary would escalate based on a combination of starts, wins, era and innings. Maybe that would approach the 10-13 million he wanted, but would be achievable if he performs similarly to the past few years.

    • unclemosesgreen - Mar 3, 2013 at 1:13 AM

      Love it, Randy thinks he knows better than the best sports agent who ever lived. Next up from Randy, writing advice for Joe Posnanski, baserunning advice for Billy Hamilton and advice on how to be a useless blowhard for the entire Steinbrenner family.

    • ctony1216 - Mar 3, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      Lohse turned down a 1-year $13 million deal with the Cardinals, didn’t he? So, I think he’s looking for more than $10-13 million per year.

  9. uyf1950 - Mar 3, 2013 at 7:22 AM

    Baring a injury to a key pitcher on a team during spring training he may remain available until the amateur draft in June when teams are no longer required to sacrifice a draft choice to sign him. Boras may also want to rethink his worth to a team in both years and dollars.

  10. officialgame - Mar 3, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Scott Boros hurts more clients then he helps. Another recent case in point is Ryan Madson who left about 40M on the table, signed a one year “pillow deal” deal with the Reds and promptly blew out his arm. He is still sleeping on the wrong side of the “pillow”. When Boros is involved one side on the other will get hurt. Teams will over pay for his players or under pay depending on timing and circumstance. Boras doesn’t seem to understand that a fair deal is good thing for both sides. Kyle Losche is Ryan Madson waiting to happen and the fact he won’t accept a one year deal says it all. Buyer beware!

  11. bigjimatch - Mar 3, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    mote to get side tracked, but I don’t understand the premise that pitchers do not have control over balls in play. Doesn’t a pitcher have control via the location of the pitch? Obviously luck is involved and apitvher will have less control if he is giving up hard it balls, but sinkers away to a righty hitter, if correctly executed, should produce a grounds to the right side. Don’t teams position the defense based on the (planned) location of the pitch?

    • Kevin S. - Mar 3, 2013 at 10:46 AM

      If they did that, they would tip the batter off to the location of the incoming pitch, allowing the batter to more effectively attack it.

      • dwdive - Mar 3, 2013 at 11:00 AM

        @Kevin, not true, teams and pitchers play the shift all the time. Also, depending on the count in an at bat, teams tweak their defense and positioning all the time as well.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 3, 2013 at 11:05 AM

        No, they shift based on a batter’s tendencies. Bigjimatch is suggesting they shift based on the pitch to be thrown, which means the batter doesn’t have to guess or react once the pitch is thrown.

      • dwdive - Mar 3, 2013 at 6:18 PM

        Again, depending on the count in an at bat, the defense will move and shift because they know what pitch is being thrown. You are wrong, it happens all the time.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 3, 2013 at 6:38 PM

        No, they don’t. They will shift based on the situation, something that can change within an at bat, but teams don’t go through all those convoluted efforts to hide their signs only to tip the pitch by their alignment. Of course, I wouldn’t expect you to actually understand that logic.

  12. onbucky96 - Mar 3, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    Ah, another story involving Scott Boras aka Satan. Looks like you waaay overplayed your hand Scott, now your client doesn’t have a job. You know, like you sent Apple back to Stanford instead of signing w/Pittsburgh. Oh well, use Bud’s wish to further penalize the ‘Roiders to whittle down the draft pick compensation back to where it was. And Scott, you still suck as a human being. Sincerely, baseball fans tired of you and your mystery team(s).

  13. dwdive - Mar 3, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    This draft pick compensation has really thrown a monkey wrench into this whole free-agency process. I’m not sure it was such a good idea anymore. I understand that it was a good idea to try and keep teams that spend more money than others from getting all of the free agents, but this is actually hurting a player now. I wonder if you will start to see teams that are picking in the top 10 (thus not having to give up a pick) sign this guy and then trade him to a team that would otherwise have to give up a pick?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 3, 2013 at 12:14 PM

      You do realize that the draft pick compensation was far worse under the old CBA right? Under the old terms, many players were attached to Type A picks that didn’t deserve it (relief pitchers mainly). Also, teams only had to offer arbitration to the Type A players, which was usually declined. Now, players have to be offered a deal that’s the average of top 125(double check this please) salaries in MLB guaranteed, which came out to $13.3M last year.

      So under the old CBA, players weren’t guaranteed a specific dollar amount, the losing team gained a first round pick AND a supplemental pick. Now, players get a set offer, the first round pick disappears and the losing team gains a supplemental pick.

      So how did MLBPA screw this up again, when what, 7 players were offered a QO?

      • jwbiii - Mar 3, 2013 at 2:46 PM

        There were nine players who received QOs. All declined them. Three re-signed:
        Josh Hamilton Tex/LAA 5/$125M Michael Moye
        B.J. Upton TBR/Atl 5/$75.25M Larry Reynolds
        Nick Swisher NYY/Cle 4/$56M Dan Lozano
        Michael Bourn Atl/Cle 4/$48M Scott Boras
        Rafael Soriano NYY/WsN 2/$28M Scott Boras
        David Ortiz Bos/Bos 2/$26M Fernando Cuza, Diego Bentz
        Adam LaRoche WsN/WsN 2/$24M Mike Milchin
        Hiroki Kuroda NYY/NYY 1/$15M Steve Hilliard

        Kyle Lohse StL/? ?/? Scott Boras

        Of the eight who have signed, all got multiyear deals except Kuroda who prefers going year to year. The contracts are a lttle more complicated than this. Swisher and Bourn have vesting options that will be easily attainable if they remain healthy and starters. The Nationals have a team option for Soriano and half of his money is deferred. LaRoche and the Nationals have a mutual option (Do these ever get picked up?).

  14. spudchukar - Mar 3, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    I get tired of being the Lohse defender, but here goes once again. Again, in full disclosure, St. Louis is my team, and Lohse was one of my favorites. But Bill Baer, Jeff Zimmerman et al, make the same mistake, expounding on a false premise. Before coming to St. Louis Lohse was a mediocre hurler at best, but he always took the ball, he performed almost injury free. Under Duncan’s tutelage he became one of the leagues’ best.

    He came to St. Louis in 2008 and adopting the “pitch to contact” Cardinal theory he quickly erased past difficulties and posted a solid 200 inning, 3.78 ERA as he adjusted his style. He started 2009 in great fashion, leading the league in several categories in April and May, before two peculiar injuries sidelined him. Fielding a bunt on a rain sodden infield he slipped injuring his leg. Then as he was attempting to sacrifice a runner he was struck in the right forearm.

    Originally, the forearm injury was misdiagnosed, which caused him some undue recovery time, but eventually it was determined that he had a severe tear to his forearm sheath, a rare injury for a baseball player, and one that proved debilitating for all of 2009 and the most part of 2010. The upside is this isn’t an injury that should reoccur, and recovery should be complete.

    And that was indeed the case. Healthy Lohse returned in 2011 with a stellar 3.39 ERA in 188 innings. And then he built on his 2011 numbers with a Cy Young worthy 2012. Had the Cards early-season bullpen failures not blown numerous quality starts he would have finished much higher in the Cy voting.

    Here is what is true about Lohse. He has been very reliable. He always takes the ball. He walks almost no one. He tied for 3rd in quality starts in the NL in 2012. He is a superb defensive player, is in good shape, handles the bat better than the league average, is used to pinch-run, and is a likeable teammate, who has no history of off-field issues. He has posted 3 consecutive, increasingly better, non-injury years. He is a young 34, who excels as a #3 because he almost always keeps team in the game.

    He should go to a team with a pitcher’s park, and preferably a team with a good defense. He excelled in St. Louis, known to be an honest hitter/pitcher confine, with a team that has not been very good defensively recently. Put him in New York (N), San Diego, Seattle, and he will thrive.

    Unless Boras is requesting a ridiculous contract for him, some teams are asleep at the wheel, scared off I guess with the claim that Lohse has a historical pattern of injury. My wish is St. Louis would re-sign Lohse, offer him a one-year deal with an option, and reap a #1 draft choice in 2014 rather than 2013 when the league wakes up and realizes he is a solid smart choice to enhance any team’s rotation.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 3, 2013 at 2:07 PM

      Before coming to St. Louis Lohse was a mediocre hurler at best, but he always took the ball, he performed almost injury free. Under Duncan’s tutelage he became one of the leagues’ best.

      You need to put down the Cardinal colored glasses. Let’s eliminate everything he did pre-STL period, and just look at the last five years. Here’s what we have:

      5 Years, ’08 to ’12
      55-35, 136 Games Started (27/year), 3.90 ERA, 101 ERA+, 5.6 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 2.52 K/9

      I’ve set the minimum IP to 800 so Lohse qualifies. Here’s where he ranks in some stats (out of 47 eligible pitchers)

      IP – 40th
      K/9 – 41st
      BB/9 – 9th

      ERA – 27th
      FIP – 26th
      xFIP – 37th

      fWAR – 36th

      He’s not an elite pitcher. His best year was at age 33 where he had his best BB/9 ever, and best K/9 since ’02. Yes his 2.86 ERA and 134 ERA+ were great, but they were also career highs. Do you trust that year as his new talent ability or the 4.27 ERA/93 ERA+ from the previous four?

      • spudchukar - Mar 3, 2013 at 2:27 PM

        This is how you can lie or at least fudge with stats. Plus you do not read very well. Subtract the two year campaigns when he was injured as a Card, the only time in his career, and you see numbers that anyone would champion.

        Oh, and I forgot to mention he LEAD all of baseball in 2012 in starts.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 3, 2013 at 4:08 PM

        Subtract the two year campaigns when he was injured as a Card, the only time in his career, and you see numbers that anyone would champion.

        How can you say I can’t read very well when I eliminated seven years of his stats, which go something like 1164IP, 4.28 ERA, 95 ERA+, 5.7 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 2.01 K/BB TO MAKE HIM LOOK BETTER and you want me to eliminate years even further?

        If we take away his two years of injury with STL, that puts 3/5 healthy years. However, ’08 is one of those healthy years and 5 years back isn’t really indicative of what someone will do, so let’s eliminate that. So now we’ve eliminated 10/12 years of this guy’s career?

        What I did was showed his last 5 years, all with STL. Want me to re-run everything just over the last two? Ok, here goes. From the last two years, with 400 IP as a marker we get only 27 pitchers. Let’s bump that down to 350 so we can include Lohse. Here are the results:

        Of the 59 total pitchers:

        IP – 28th
        K/9 – 53rd
        BB/9 – 6th

        ERA – 15th
        FIP – 23rd
        xFIP – 44th

        fWAR – 32nd

        Again, this is using his two best possible years, eliminating his injury years, and eliminating his bad years, and he’s still not top 10 in any category except ERA.

        Never mind that he’ll be 34 next year, wants more than $14M a year, and is probably searching for a multi-year deal.

      • spudchukar - Mar 3, 2013 at 11:50 PM

        So many stats, so many errors. He has had three healthy years in St. Louis. All have been stellar, inspired by the Duncan philosophy. Not all players can adjust to Duncan’s teachings, and the Cards do not make moves for pitchers who they don’t believe can. But the facts remain. In his three years in St. Louis, where health has not been an issue, he has excelled.

        Now I know that does not fit your agenda, but By Golly, it is true. If you believe I extrapolate too much from those three years, so be it. But including the injury plagued years of 2009-2010 isn’t indicative of his talent. (Actually the first two months of 2009 were also very good, before he was injured).

        One can have a choice, either believe that Lohse became a different pitcher after he came to St. Louis or not. But if you are a team searching for a quality starter why would you disregard his successes. The point is Lohse is still relatively young, in great condition, and is the type of pitcher who keeps a team in games, and outside of the 1 1/2 years in 2009-10 has always taken the ball. For some reason you cannot disconnect the two.

        Early in his career he wasn’t very consistent, and wasn’t particularly good with the exception that he displayed good control, and was an innings eater who was always healthy. Then Duncan impresses on him the importance of attacking the zone, and a few other tricks, and suddenly he becomes a different guy who happened to suffer a unique, bizarre, forearm injury that sidelined him for the best part of two years, but that was two years ago, and once recovered has shown no lingering effects.

        This cannot be disputed. His last 3 healthy years have been very good, and increasingly so. I would say that is much more indicative of a trend, rely on past history more if you choose, and include the only 2 years in his career that he was hurt if you must, but that analysis seems to be a losers game to me.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 4, 2013 at 10:48 AM

        So many stats, so many errors.

        Point one out. You make a ton of declarations with zero proof backing them up. For instance we see:

        He has had three healthy years in St. Louis. All have been stellar, inspired by the Duncan philosophy

        Year 1 – 200 IP, 112 ERA+, 5.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 2.43 K/BB, 2.5 bWAR/3.1 fWAR
        Year 2 – 188.1 IP, 109 ERA+, 5.3 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 2.64 K/BB, 2.2 bWAR/2.5 fWAR

        Those are “stellar” years? In whose opinion are slightly above replacement level years “stellar”? Even his most recent year (3.9 bWAR/3.6 fWAR) is based solely on an above average ERA.

        The point is Lohse is still relatively young, in great condition, and is the type of pitcher who keeps a team in games, and outside of the 1 1/2 years in 2009-10 has always taken the ball. For some reason you cannot disconnect the two.

        You think a 34 year old pitcher is “young”? And I have a disconnect. Come on, you are just trolling now.

  15. kvanhorn87 - Mar 3, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    Lets just forget his stats during injury years! Bc we all know injury history doesn’t matter at all.

    • spudchukar - Mar 3, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      It matters, but conditionally. Is there a repetitive history? No. Has he shown complete recovery from the injury. Is it the kind of injury that is likely to reappear? No.

  16. mscxvd - Mar 4, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    he will get signed ounce a team loses there ace this spring

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