Monday, December 31, 2012

Kyle Lohse's free-agency misadventures

We're on the cusp of a new year, and Kyle Lohse -- former Twins pitcher coming off the two best seasons of his career -- remains without a team.

Kyle Lohse went 30-11, 3.11
over the past two seasons for St. Louis.
He has multiple factors working against him. I'll list them in the order that I consider them significant, but any of them would logically discourage teams from pursuing him:

  • Stat-savvy organizations will be particularly wary of his below-average strikeout rate (6.1 K/9 last season, 5.6 for his career) and his far-better-than-sustainable batting average on balls in play (.272 and .267 the past two seasons). Those stats mean he's a bad bet to continue pitching well.
  • Because the St. Louis Cardinals made him a qualifying offer, the team that signs Lohse will lose a draft pick. More than that, it will lose the bonus budget allotted to that pick, which figures to limit its flexibility in signing draftees next summer.
  • He's 34.
  • Lohse's success is a creation of the Tony LaRussa-Dave Duncan patch-a-veteran pitching assembly line, and such pitchers have not generally fared well out of that environment.
  • He is represented by Scott Boras. No bargains are available there.

The Twins probably weren't going to go after Lohse simply off their past history with him, but point two in the above listing is the real killer for them. In the Twins specific case, it would be the second-round pick that they'd lose -- and they're not at a point in the success cycle where it makes sense to surrender a high pick. Even contenders might think that regarding somebody with as many warning lights as Lohse.

The problem of draft-pick compensation dampening demand for specific free agents was supposed to have been fixed by the new labor agreement. The old system of free agent classification -- which resulted far too often in decent middle relievers being absurdly overvalued -- was abolished and replaced with the qualifying offer system.

Lohse is among a group of free agents to whom qualifying offers were made who might wish they'd accepted. They're good enough for their old team to have offered a $13 million one-year deal but not good enough to find real demand in the open market, at least not with the draft-pick penalty attached. Michael Bourn and Adam LaRoche also remain unsigned; Nick Swisher landed with Cleveland, a move I expect to look at in more detail in the next week or so. Suffice it to say for now that the Indians were hardly Swisher's desired destination.

1 comment:

  1. I think you are about right. The real problem is losing a high pick. I also wonder if most team really want to offer more than a 2 year deal to a 34 year old. When you combine paying a high price, probably at least $13 mil. a year, to what maybe a declining vet, and losing a draft pick. Well that may not be a good combination. And no, I don't think the Twins should be particularly interested in him in any case.