Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Kyle Lohse and the Yankees: A Marriage Made in Heaven?

For reasons completely related to Scott Boras and a MLBPA agreement, Kyle Lohse is still unsigned, the only 'marquee' FA that is still not on a team. So, the hot topic in the blogsophere is where he should sign. As a completely biased Yankees fan, I'm going to make the case why Mr. Lohse should consider shacking up in  Trump Tower for the next three years. So, let's get right to it.

You baseball nerds know Kyle Lohse's history: came up with the Twins, traded to the Reds, also went to the Phillies briefly and spent the last few seasons with the Cardinals. Lohse was pretty much garbage in Minnesota, and revitalized himself in St. Louis. Lohse is 34, so he's got a few years left in the tank, but not young. His agent is Scott Boras, which means he'll hold out for the best deal and often overvalues his clients. Lohse is also tied to draft pick compensation. The new MLBPA agreement does not divide between "Type A" and "Type B" compensation. Now, a team must offer compensation for a FA and if they decline it for free agency, the team gets a compensated 1st Round Draft Pick. So, Lohse declined it (looks bad in hindsight) and has a draft pick attached to him. If a team with one of the worst records in the league (1-10) signs Lohse, they do not lose the pick. (Thanks to Dayn Perry of CBS Sports for the info)

Why the Yankees are a fit

  1. Rotation Depth: The old baseball adage: You can never had enough starting pitching. Still applies here. The Yankees rotation will be better without Garcia and retains last year's rotation: CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. Last year's swing man is also back, David Phelps. And Michael Pineda returns after the All-Star break. The AAA team also has youngsters Adam Warren, Brett Marshall and Vidal Nuno. Looks solid, right? Sure, but Kuroda and Nova are the only starters to pitch full seasons the last 2 years. Warren got killed in 1 MLB start and Marshall/Nuno do not have MLB experience. You can never have enough SP's, period.
  2. Injury: I referenced this. Is Sabathia breaking down? He is getting older and missed time. Kuroda's been incredibly durable in MLB. Pettitte hasn't pitched a full year since 2009. Hughes is injury prone. Pineda had shoulder surgery. This team is already injury prone and while Lohse isn't the pinnacle of health, he adds another arm.
  3. 2014: The rotation for 2014 that is signed right now? Only Sabathia and Nova of the starting 5. Pineda and Phelps probably move into the rotation, too. That's 4. The Yankees need another veteran. Kuroda and Pettitte might retire and Hughes will cost a lot of money as a FA (I say he goes between Edwin Jackson & Anibal Sanchez - 5 years/$65 Million). Lohse will probably pitch around the same stats and for 3 years, isn't a deal breaker.
What makes him a poor fit? Well, people don't trust St. Louis pitchers post-St. Louis. The track record is bad: their K rates decline, ground ball rates decline, fly ball rates go up, aka the Dave Duncan effect. Busch Stadium is in the middle/bottom of runs factor, i.e. it pitches more towards a pitchers park than a hitters park. The AL East is full of hitter's parks. And strong lefty hitters. I do feel Lohse has made himself a better pitcher. His BB rate is impeccable, but his WHIP is about average due to the hits he allows. Lohse is not a perfect solution. He's likely a 3.80/4.00 ERA type. But, for a middle of the rotation starter on a discount? He's worth the draft pick for a 3 year, $36 million deal. That draft pick is not going to make the MLB in that time. Lohse can help now. The Yankees have 2 1st round picks left if they use their other one 1st rounder on Lohse. So, why not? Take a shot.

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