Kyle Lohse‘s continuing availability isn’t unprecedented, but it is unusual. A deal was finally found for Michael Bourn, as a deal for Rafael Soriano was found before, making Lohse the last remaining free agent with draft pick compensation attached.
Oct 22, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Kyle Lohse (26) reacts during the second inning of game seven of the 2012 NLCS against the San Francisco Giants at AT
Lohse is a very good pitcher – and a guy coming off a couple of very solid seasons. Not a guy that needed to rebuild value. The problem is, everybody seems to have a reason not to sign him and a lot of teams seem to have more than one. Some teams don’t need pitching, some teams can’t afford to add payroll and some teams just don’t want to cough up that draft pick. A lot of it is probably due to draft pick compensation, which has always hit borderline guys hard (and doubly hard this year). A lot of it is also due to the Cardinals strange unwillingness to consider bringing him back – given that they DO have need of his services. You’ll hear a lot that it makes sense for the Cards to sign him since they wouldn’t have to sacrifice a pick, but that isn’t exactly true. They would be sacrificing the pick that they hope to receive when Lohse signs elsewhere.
Swisher dangling there suitor-less ultimately brought him to Cleveland, the same happened with Michael Bourn. The Indians were that unusual combination of a team with a protected first rounder and some willingness to spend. Every signing that they have made has surprised folks that they were willing and able to spend the money and come with the certainty that NOW the Indians must be tapped out. Maybe they aren’t… and Lohse is a definite fit for a team that basically pitched itself out of the division race last season. The draft pick wouldn’t matter a bit – if I’m not mistaken, all they would lose would be a fourth rounder. The Kansas City Royals are another team that obviously can’t afford to put more money into payroll – but would probably make a great fit for Lohse. Like the Indians, they’re a team with a protected first-rounder that projects as a borderline contender. One more push for either would make them at least close to the equal of Detroit and a legitimate threat to take the AL Central or at least win a wild card spot. They’re also both teams with a desperate need to show fans who are sick of losing that the team has turned the corner, making season tickets a safe investment. It isn’t that fans don’t exist for these small-market teams, when the Indians won they sold out every game and I have no doubt that the Royals could do the same. In addition to the hopes that selling more tickets would help Lohse pay for himself, both teams have some players that they could potentially move in order to free up cash: Ubaldo Jimenez and Drew Stubbs (to name a couple) for Cleveland and Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar for KC.
There are other possible resting places for Kyle Lohse, other than Cleveland and Kansas City, but none of them are really likely resting places either. The market for the guy is extraordinarily soft. Too many teams are – at this point in the offseason at least – in the same position vis a vis Lohse as the Tigers: no cash to spend, no need for another starter, unwilling to lose a draft pick. Chances are that whatever deal Boras finds for Lohse is going to involve creative terms in the areas that Boras can influence. He can’t take away draft pick compensation and there is NO WAY he’s going to settle for a low overall value. But… he’ll almost certainly be willing to include a lot of deferred money and performance bonuses and some out clauses should age/injury catch up with his client. Chances are also good that – given that nobody claims to have cash to burn – whoever signs Lohse will wind up moving salary in order to do so. And what that means is that at any moment Lohse could land in Ohio or Missouri shifting the Central projection from Detroit by 6 to Detroit by 2.