Why Kyle Lohse (Or Someone Like Him, Only Much Cheaper) Should Be The Phils’ Next Target


Free agency hasn’t exactly worked out for Kyle Lohse yet. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies offense looks like it’s going to be somewhat of a mess in 2013 and, barring a miracle, will probably be one of the lowest-scoring offenses in baseball.

Only a true bounce-back season from Michael Young, in addition to full, healthy and productive seasons from Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, the maturation of Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf, and a Carlos Ruiz that is somewhat reminiscent of his 2012 self, can make the Phillies anything more than a middling offense next year.

So, when faced with a bunch of hitters that are either aged, injured, or just not very good anymore, and few options upon which to improve the mix, what is a general manager to do?

Go get some more pitchin’, that’s what.

Earlier today, I noted that St. Louis Cardinals’ starter Kyle Lohse is still on the free agent market. Lohse had a terrific year last year, going 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA and a league-leading 33 games started. He finished seventh in the Cy Young voting and turned down a qualifying offer of $13.3 million from the Cardinals back in October.

Unfortunately for Lohse, baseball teams have become very protective of their first round picks and, by refusing the qualifying offer, Lohse made sure that whatever team signs him will have to forfeit that first round pick.

That would include the Phillies’ #16 pick, should they be interested.

Lohse obviously is not thrilled with baseball’s draft pick compensation rules, which have largely kept him on the sidelines this winter.

"“It’s not exactly the situation I envisioned, not at all,” Lohse said last week with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It hasn’t been exactly a free market because I’m tied to a draft pick and other guys in my class aren’t. That comes at a price. You can’t compare this to anything in the past because it hasn’t been like this.”"

July 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Karstens (27) pitches against the Miami Marlins during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies are in an interesting situation. They cannot trade Cliff Lee because they have no idea how healthy Roy Halladay is going to be this year. The soon-to-be 36-year-old missed six weeks with a bum shoulder last year, and when he did pitch, he was extremely ordinary.

Since the Phils can’t really do much to improve the offense, unless they miraculously somehow trade for Michael Morse, Justin Upton or Giancarlo Stanton, it would make a ton of sense for Ruben Amaro to bolster his rotation even further.

Acquiring another quality starter would enable the Phillies to use Kyle Kendrick in the situation for which he is best designed, a swing-man/spot starter. In addition, another starter would give the Phillies some back-up options in case the 2012-version of Halladay emerges from spring training.

In an ideal world, Kyle Lohse would be a good fit. Because of his draft pick compensation, his asking price has to come down. Could he be had on a two-year deal for $12-14 million? Possibly. But the Phils would lose that precious first-round draft pick, and Lohse may not be good enough to warrant losing that pick, even if the financial details allowed the Phillies to stay within their budget.

Not only that, Lohse will have difficulty matching last year’s production. His 2.86 ERA was by far the lowest of his career (4.45 ERA in 331 career starts) and a regression is in the cards for 2013.

Bill Baer at Crashburn Alley noted another starting pitcher free agent on the market who is very similar to Lohse and would would require much less from the Phillies.

Karstens went 5-4 with a 3.97 ERA last year in 15 starts, and only pitched 90.2 innings as opposed to 211 innings for Lohse. But in looking at their peripherals, both pitchers are basically the same.

Kyle Lohse:


Jeff Karstens:


As you can see, their H/9, HR/9, BB/9 and SO/9 were almost identical last year. The differences in their ERAs can likely be attributed to some amount of good fortune for Lohse, and St. Louis’ superior defense as compared to Pittsburgh’s (as Baer also pointed out).

Signing Karstens would give the Phillies another capable arm for the rotation, further solidifying the team concept of pitching and defense as the keys to success. Don’t be fooled by Lohse’s career year in 2012, he is closer to Karstens then he is a top-flight #1 or #2 starter.

Still, either pitcher would give the Phils a little more security in the rotation and take some pressure off an offense that could be downright offensive this year.

Unless, of course, the Marlins are willing to give up Stanton for Jesse Biddle and a box of baseballs.