The Indians seem to be done with their offseason shopping, but some Clevelanders aren’t ready to check out yet. Kyle Lohse, one of the top starting pitchers in this year’s free agent class, is still on the market and some Tribe fans want to add him to the 2013 rotation. So in this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists (featuring guest contributor Stephanie Liscio from It’s Pronounced “Lajaway”): Should the Indians sign Kyle Lohse?
Stephanie Liscio (It’s Pronounced “Lajaway”): As soon as the Indians signed Michael Bourn, there were cries for them to keep spending and sign Kyle Lohse as well. Every time someone suggests this to me, I just shake my head and say “no…no no no.”
The typical response is somewhere along the lines of “but we need extra pitching. Lohse was so good with St. Louis!” Everyone is seduced by his low ERA and high win totals (he was 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 2012) but those numbers are somewhat deceptive. If you look at Lohse’s BABIP last season, it shows that he was incredibly lucky; he’s bound to regress in 2013. Plus the St. Louis version of Lohse is definitely not the Minnesota version that some Indians fans may remember. If you take someone who is bound for a regression and stick them back in the American League (where they have a checkered past to begin with) it could end up being a recipe for disaster.
Add in the fact that Lohse is 34, and there’s no way the Indians should do a multi-year deal on this. I’d almost consider a one-year deal with some incentives, but is that even worth losing a fourth-round pick? Since he’s already missed a couple of weeks of spring training and would need time to get ready, I think I’d just pass on this one.
Evan Vogel: Should the Indians sign Kyle Lohse? Absolutely, but only if he was willing to sign at one-year and $8 million; however, that isn’t about to happen, considering multiple sources have reported, including Jon Heyman, that Lohse is still looking for a rich, three-year deal.
Lohse is just not worth that kind of commitment for the Indians because he is 34 years old and he isn’t likely to have a 30-11 record and 3.11 ERA over the next two seasons and 399.1 innings, as he has with the Cardinals. Certainly, players make adjustments and become better during their careers, but who is Kyle Lohse? The statistical ace that he has been the last two seasons, or the guy who has an 88-98 record and 4.79 ERA over his other 1,573.2 career innings.
He just isn’t worth the risk for the Indians, unless it is a one-year deal similar to what the club signed Brett Myers to.
Brian Heise: The Indians should totally make a run at Kyle Lohse. Frankly, I don’t understand why he’s still available. All he has done over the past two seasons is post a 30-11 record with. 3.11 ERA in just under 400 inings of work. Still not convinced? Lohse also posted a 122 ERA+ over those two seasons and was 34% better than average in 2012. And while he isn’t a dominating strikeout pitcher, 5.3 K/9 for his career, Lohse gets out by avoiding walks and pitching to contact. There’s a lot to like about what he does on the mound.
For the right price the Indians should make a run at him. And who knows, maybe given the lack of a demand for his services the Indians can get Lohse at a discount.
Jeff Mount: It’s a hard question to answer in a vacuum. The real question is either “How much should they be willing to spend on Kyle Lohse?” or “Would they have been better off with Kyle Lohse than Michael Bourn or Nick Swisher?” (assuming that he wants a contract in that neighborhood). The answer to the second question is yes on Bourn, probably not on Swisher.
The answer to the first question is that I would consider a one-year offer for $12-13 million, with a club option for a second year. Given his age, he probably figures this is his last shot at the big money, long term deal, but if he hasn’t signed by next week even Scott Boras would have to admit that the big deal just isn’t there. Three long term contracts for players in their 30s is probably just too much risk for the Indians to take on, and they have to hope that by 2014 Bauer and/or Carrasco will fill the void at the top of the rotation, but a one year deal for Lohse would be a stopgap solution.
The next question is, would you do a salary dump trade of Ubaldo Jimenez so that you could afford to sign Kyle Lohse? Realistically, they are not going to simply add another twelve million to the budget, so either Jimenez or Chris Perez would probably be moved to keep the payroll close to the magic number, and Perez is probably untradeable until he is 100%. Signing Lohse would push Jimenez back in the rotation, which is where he belongs based on performance. Since there are already a hundred candidates for the fourth and fifth spots, paying Jimenez $6 million to join that rabble seems like a waste of money.
Ed Carroll: I’d sign Loshe on a one-shot under $8 million, no options either way. Very skeptical of his ability to produce going forward, especially in the AL. But I’d take Bourn over Loshe 8 days a week. Loshe is older than Bourn and less valuable, and giving long-term deals to pitchers is usually pretty risky.
Merritt Rohlfing: I don’t get Kyle Lohse. Career-wise, he’s slightly worse than league average with a 97 ERA+, but he seems like another beneficiary of the Dave Duncan ritual of cybernetic implants and the learning of pitching zen that can only be achieved in bathing in the waters of the Mississippi just south of the Missouri confluence. Legend says the minerals permeate the brain stem and give you superhuman skills, but at the cost of feeling in your pinkie toe The Mississippi is pretty polluted, you know. Lots of pesticides.
We’ve seen it time and again though, and Lohse went from a decent middle of the rotation guy to receiving Cy Young votes. You have to wonder which Lohse would come to Cleveland: the one whose been remade with Agent Orange derivatives or the guy with the 94 ERA+ from the previous 11 years who floated through three teams. His agent Scott Boras is going to want too much money, and with the outlay the Indians already have in Swisher, Bourn and others, it just doesn’t seem feasible.
Anyway, I have a lot of faith in what the Tribe has put together in the pitching department, if for no other reason than that it can’t be worse than it was last year. You have to give the young guns a legit chance, otherwise what’s the point in keeping them around. No, the Indians are going to be just fine without Mr. Lohse.
Katrina Putnam: At this point, the Indians really don’t need to sign Kyle Lohse. Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Brett Myers aren’t going anywhere this year, so that leaves two open rotation slots, and Zach McAllister has a pretty firm hold on one of those. Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka have both looked extremely good so far, and they could be signed to cheaper, shorter contracts than what Scott Boras would want for Lohse—plus the team would be able to keep their draft pick.
The Indians had to stretch their budget to sign Michael Bourn, and they don’t have the extra cash to add another free agent. They could trade away a player with an expensive contract, like Chris Perez, in order to sign him—but does Lohse (especially on an AL team) really have that much more upside than a healthy Kazmir? The Tribe should hedge their bets on the rotation options they already have.