Ok, save the “duh” comments. I know I’m behind the news here.
Fact is, my tardiness was somewhat intentional. I’ve set myself down at the keyboard several times since Sunday night/Monday afternoon, all set to unleash my true thoughts on the Kyle Lohse signing, only to think better of it and continue to read other opinions across the web.
At long last, I think I’ve done enough reading, and I’m here to offer my opinion to my loyal readers (all three of you).
I really like the Lohse signing. More than I thought I would. In fact, I think they got a pretty good deal on Lohse. John Mozeliak should be praised for making a proactive move before Lohse hit the market. Lohse deserves a lot of credit in this situation as well, supposedly having initiated the talks between his agent Scott Boras and the Cardinals to get to this point.
I’m not going to get too deeply statistical on this note – when probably I should – to prove my point. What I will do, is offer anecdotal evidence (I suspect that it is all I have to support my argument in this situation) that can show that at worst, Lohse’s contract will not be a ‘collar around the neck’ of the Cardinals.
Here we go.
First off, Lohse’s performance for 2008. Sure, he’s never produced as he did this past season, but who is anyone to say that he never will again? Dave Duncan has surely made pitchers out of throwers and head cases in the past, and I suspect he may have found a live arm/weak head project again in Lohse. Duncan made a very similar transformation in Todd Stottlemyre in Oakland and St Louis from 1995 through mid-1998. Stottlemyre proved to be successful, at least successful enough to justify what they’ve paid Lohse in today’s market, for the four years between age 29 and 33, which happened to be his last year with the Cardinals. Stottlemyre was consequently handed $8m per season for 1999-2002, which is more per season than Lohse will make in 2009.
Cardinal fans were beside themselves when Walt Jocketty let Jeff Suppan walk, supposedly without so much as a phone call. Suppan will make $5.375m more than Lohse ($7.125m) in 2009, and $3.625m more ($8.875m for Lohse) in 2010. Suppan will be 34 next season, Lohse will be 30. Suppan was 10-10 this season with a 4.96 ERA, in 177.7 IP. Lohse was 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA in 200 IP. Innings are obviously a valuable commodity, not only for the Cardinals, but in all of Major League Baseball.
Jason Marquis is due to make $9.875m next season. This is not a club option or player option, this is guaranteed. Cardinal fans couldn’t get rid of this guy fast enough two years ago. Enough said.
Adam Eaton signed a big four-year contract with the Philadelphia Philles in 2007, when he was 29. He will earn more than Lohse in 2009 and 2010 ($8.5m and $9m). Eaton is 14-18 with an atrocious ERA and has only averaged around 140 IP per season, mostly because he was sent to triple-A midway through the 2008 season.
Obviously, as I’m writing, I realize these cases provide just as much of a cautionary tale as they do a reason to sign Lohse to this contract. Lohse has been a consistent innings guy. He’s been a healthy pitcher. He hasn’t always produced statistics to match his 2008 effort, but the hope is that the Cardinals either found something in his mechanics or found something in his head that they have righted to produce the 2008 we all saw.
With all of that said, I have my complaints with the deal. I don’t like the no-trade clause. Why in the world would the Cardinals give in to this senseless demand from a pitcher who couldn’t even command a multi-year contract last season? Why not give him a couple years no-trade with a couple years of limited no-trade? The no-trade has a potential to really hamstring the Cardinals in years 2011 and 2012. Here’s hoping that they won’t need to worry about trading him.
While it helps immediately, I’m not sure I agree with the back-loading of the deal. Lohse is due to earn far more in the last two years of the contract than the first two – obviously this could well be a moot point if the Cardinals’ plan to build from within comes to fruition and they can get more production from less out of young players in those years.
I’m not sure what the Lohse deal means for the rest of the off-season and the Cardinals’ ability to sign more starting pitching. Lots of folks would love to see Braden Looper brought back. Still others are expecting a AJ Burnett or Ben Sheets type of signing (keep dreaming about CC Sabathia folks). There just isn’t the money (or perhaps the availability) of those guys realistically in the Cardinals’ budget. Burnett is likely to command $16-18m per season. Sheets is far too injury prone, much less the fact that someone is bound to throw $15m at him regardless. Looper might come back, but he’ll still ring up around $7-8m per season, if I had to guess. I, for one, wouldn’t mind seeing Looper come back around $6-7m if it could get done. I don’t advocate depending on Chris Carpenter for any amount of innings. I think the Cardinals could reasonably get a pitcher or two from Memphis to throw some reasonable innings in the fifth rotation spot. Who knows what is going on in Mozeliak’s wheelhouse.
I should add at this point that I realize I’m looking on the sunny side of life here. For all of the positive comparables, there are also the Jose Lima’s, Ricky Bones’, Sidney Ponson’s, and (gasp) Joel Pineiro’s of the world. Lohse is going to have to continue to work with Duncan, have to continue to concentrate during games, must continue to strengthen his mental approach to pitching in the National League. For some reason I am confident.
I leave you with this:
Lohse’s most comparable pitcher at ages 25 and 26 (according to baseball-reference.com)? None other than Chris Carpenter. Carp was hurt at age 27, missed the season during age 28. Lohse has pitched through those years, hopefully growing as he did. Carp blossomed at age 29, 30, and 31 under the tutelage of Dave Duncan. If the Cardinals could get anywhere near the production out of a 29, 30, and 31 year old Lohse, this contract will be a bargain.