UCB Roundtable: Kyle Lohse deal too soon?

by on February 20, 2009 · 10 comments

Once again the United Cardinal Bloggers undertake a Roundtable project, a way to pass the time during Spring Training while waiting for Opening Day.

We had the honor of leading off this time around, so here goes:

In light of the way the free agent market has progressed, do you think the Cards jumped the gun extending Kyle Lohse’s contract?  Lohse’s deal now stands as one of the largest for a pitcher this off-season…huge gaffe or merely bad timing?

Lohse’s deal (from Cot’s)

Kyle Lohse rhp
4 years/$41M (2009-12)

  • 4 years/$41M (2009-12)
    • signed extension 9/29/08
    • $1.25M signing bonus
    • 09:$7.125M, 10:$8.875M, 11:$11.875M, 12:$11.875M
    • full no-trade clause

4thebirdz…

If you answer that right now, it seems a bit high, but by next season, it may seem like one of the better deals made.

Hindsight will dictate the worthiness of Lohse’s contract. No matter when this question is asked, the answer is either going to be a right-now prediction or an “I’ll tell you next season.”

For now, I say, considering the instability of the economy and down baseball market, the deal is somewhat bloated, but also consider that at the time the Lohse deal was struck, the guys we once called aces (Carp, Waino, Mulder) were rubbing their arms, only pausing to reach out for those big paychecks, while Lohse was fulfilling the role without the title or the big bucks.

No disrespect to the others, hurt is hurt, but Loshe has earned his “payday in the sun.”

C70 at the Bat

Bad timing, in my mind.

The problem is, if they hadn’t signed Lohse when they did, they’d have had a big hole to try to fill this offseason and no guarantee that Lohse would have returned to them.  Who knows how that would have affected their offseason plans, whether they would have been in on Sheets until finding out about his injury or if they’d have done some bargain hunting.

There’s no way they could have known how the market was going to soften this offseason.  They got what they needed a price that was reasonable at the time, so I find it hard to criticize them in hindsight.

Cards Diaspora

It’s not a great deal. He’s going to make more than $11 million dollars in 2011 and 2012. And if anyone thinks he’ll repeat his sub-4.00 FIP, I’ve got some beans to sell you.

That said, it’s not the worst deal in the world by any means, and certainly not the kind of deal that’s going to become a burden for the Cardinals over the next four years. At least it’s not a closer we’re giving that kind of money to. Lohse is consistent, not exactly a boon to the marketing department, but a guy who’ll most likely make 30 starts in 3 of those 4 years and pitch well enough to give the Cards a chance to win most times out, offense willing, bullpen permitting.

Looking at this deal and how the free agent market (non-NY version) developed in hindsight, the worst part about Lohse’s deal are the years. The hot new trend in free agent SPs was the one year deal. Ideally, the Cardinals would have some arms from the farm ready to take Lohse’s spot in the rotation after a year or two, but I’ll guess they’ll still the chance to do that for Pineiro (talk about a dumb contract) and Wellemeyer.

Redbirds Fun

Probably bad timing at best.

Five O’Clock Blogger

I think the Kyle Lohse Situation began as a case of bad timing, which soon turned into a huge gaffe, at least in the eyes of the Angry Hordes.

With Chris Carpenter’s status still unknown at that point, John Mozeliak and Co. were facing possibly three holes in the rotation. The front office had taken itself out of the Sabathia/Burnett Sweepstakes before they even began, so there probably was some motivation to get *something* done. Given which players were left, the front office may have felt they *had* to lock up Lohse. “The devil you know…” and all that.

But as some of the non-Sabathia/Burnett starters began to fall (Randy Johnson, $8M; John Smoltz, $5.5M; Brad Penny, $5M; etc.), the Lohse contract began to look more and more unsightly. He had something of a career year last season, and at age 30, he’s as good now as he’s ever going to be. The $7.125M he’ll receive this season for being average isn’t so bad, but by 2011 that figure jumps to $11.875M. Combine that with his inexplicable no-trade clause and you get a less-than-awesome free-agent signing.

The Cardinal Virtue

I pretty much agree with what Jeff has said, as I think paying a #3 starter an average of over 10 mil per year is not a good decision for a team of moderate payroll like the Cardinals. I will try defend the deal somewhat by saying that the guys in the market this year that are clearly better than Lohse (Sabathia, Burnett, Lowe), all got bigger deals. Sheets is hurt, and everyone else is pretty meh. Smoltz, Johnson and Glavine are all over 40 and coming off injuries. Oliver Perez got a similiar, if not sliightly better deal from the Mets as Lohse did (three years, 36 mil). He probably has better stuff than Lohse, but their results have been similar. Could we have signed Lohse for less if we had waited a few months? Likely so, but maybe we wouldn’t have signed him at all and we would be stuck with someone less reliable or talented or both. So, the deal is not a good one, but it’s not a franchise killer either in my opinion.

la Beisbolista

Of the choices, I’d say bad timing. I’m hesitant at this point to call it a gaffe, because season one of the four-year deal hasn’t even officially begun yet. I’m going to give Lohse a chance to prove his worth before I make that kind of judgment. (And yes, I think he could turn out to be worth the money he’s making.)

Back in September (or thereabouts) when Mozeliak was throwing around words like “aggressive” and “low-hanging”, the Lohse signing seemed to be a good faith gesture to us fans that he was, in fact, serious about improving the team and making big moves. Personally, I was thrilled with the deal because (besides liking Lohse anyway) I thought it spoke well of his intentions for the off-season. Of course, now that the economy and the free agent market are both in the toilet, it’s easy to write off the Lohse deal as a mistake, but if the economic climate were different, the question could very well have been “Does the Lohse signing show good foresight by Mozeliak or was it just a case of dumb luck?”

I think it was in the team’s best interest at that point to make the deal. Would I feel the same if it were on the table today? Probably not.

As for the no-trade clause, I’m still a little mystified by that one. Honestly, I think it may have been Scott Boras’s black magic.

Cardinal Nation Globe

I don’t think the Cards jumped the gun on the contract. Sure, considering the market now, he’s overpaid but there was no way that the Cardinals would have known what the FA pitching market of the 2009 offseason would be at the time. So I don’t consider it a huge gaffe, just bad timing. Since pitchers seem to be so inconsistent and injury prone, the ideal situation would be to sign them all to 1-year contracts; that’s certainly not going to happen. Obviously the time was very good for Lohse. He got 15 wins (topping his personal record of 14 in 2003), he also pitched 200 innings (only the second time that he has done that – 201 in 2003).

Fungoes

A questionable deal has grown downright dubious. Many of us didn’t like the contract when it happened — not the worst aspect of which was the giving away the Cardinals’ ability to trade Lohse at some point, which would’ve at least offered some hope. But based on projected value, the Cardinals overpaid Lohse by around 50%. That’s unwise in any economy, and it obviously looks worse today. One can’t blame Mozeliak for not foreseeing the coming recession, but the person who said to beware when Scott Boras agrees to a deal before hitting the market had it right. At least no one can accuse the Cardinals of being cheap.

Redbirds Row

Kyle Lohse got what he had coming to him in my opinion. I factor in last season in the deal he signed with the Cards, and it helps me sleep at night when I look at it that way. Seriously though, Lohse will prove very early on if it was the right move by St. Louis.

He has the durability factor, and that to me is more important that age or value. This is the reason the Lowes and Moyers of the world can keep getting multi-year deals, and most everyone else is looking for work. Lohse made a mistake by letting Boras lead him down the wrong path before, and he was rewarded by wanting to get a deal down quickly.

When looking at the question again, I will pick the bad timing angle. He is a vital piece to the puzzle this year, and there is no contract to play for this time. If Lohse just does his job (looking at you Joel), the money will take care of itself. And that is more than any of us can want with all the other health risks already on the table.

Cards Diaspora (in response to Rebirds Row)

Seems like the rookie GM flinched first in the face of Scott Boras.

la Beisbolista (in response to Cards Diaspora)

But at the time, didn’t it seem like Boras was the only one not pleased as punch about the deal? He has the reputation for wanting his players to test the FA market rather than giving “hometown discounts”.

The Rundown

As far as the Lohse question goes, I have to say that I do believe the Cardinals jumped the gun on Lohse. Don’t get me wrong; resigning him was a perfectly defensible move, particularly when you look at the rest of the Cards’ rotation. Too many question marks, too many injuries, and just not enough innings. Bringing Lohse back was as good an option as any to try and shore up the rotation in order to avoid another complete collapse the likes of which we saw in 2007.

Nonetheless, they signed him much too early. The deadline for offering arbitration for outgoing free agents is at the beginning of December; negotiations between teams and players hardly ever get off the ground before then. Teams can’t even talk to other teams’ free agents until well after the World Series. Yet the Cardinals, for some reason, thought it necessary to sign Lohse the day after the season ended, long before there was any way of telling what the free agent market was going to look like this offseason. There was absolutely no reason to do the deal when they did. You can’t look at the market now and say they should have known society was going to collapse; there were warning signs, yes, but no one outside the Weekly World News was predicting this sort of disaster. Even so, the Cardinals absolutely should have let the market dictate what Lohse was worth, rather than jumping to lock him up before the corpse of 2008 was even cold.

My take?

I don’t have a lot to add to the discussion about Lohse’s past performance, or his projections, or the timing of the signing.  My opinion matches that of a lot of the writers above: the Cards did what they had to do, at the time, to ensure they would have some semblance of a rotation entering the off-season.  With so much uncertainty in Chris Carpenter and the crew, an innings-eater like Lohse is always desirable.  Whether they could’ve predicted the current state of the market or not is kind of moot at this stage.

I have to say I was surprised to see little discussion of the blanket no-trade clause included in the contract.  You can argue until you’re blue in the face about dollars, years, signing bonus, et al.  But why in blue blazes would you give this guy a no-trade?  I can certainly see Lohse’s desire for it, as he’s been bounced around quite a bit already by age 30.  But why would the Cardinals hamstring themselves with such a deal?  They have refused in the past to issue no-trades for far superior players to Lohse, so why start now, with this guy?  Perhaps Sarah is right, it may have been Boras Black Magic™.

As for the future of Lohse under the deal?  He out-performed his career numbers last season in putting together one of the better performances on the Cardinals staff.  While I certainly understand projections and regression to mean and all of that (I’m looking at you Pip), who’s to say that Lohse didn’t find a home with Dave Duncan?  We’ve extolled the virtues of Dunc and reviving or inflating careers before, so why not with Lohse?  Could that be the reason Lohse was so adamant about extending his deal?  The reason he pushed for a no-trade?  Could it be that Duncan (and perhaps the Cardinal catcher and defense) give Lohse the best chance to be successful?  Here’s hoping.

Of course, none of that takes into account whether Duncan will be around for the remainder of Kyle’s untradable contract…

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Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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{ 8 comments }

Cardinal70 February 20, 2009

I agree, the Cards shouldn’t have given him the no-trade clause. The only rationale I could give would be they expect by the time they might want to trade him, his contract would look cheap and therefore people might pay to have that clause waived.

Of course, that looks much less likely now and honestly it wasn’t very solid then. If Lohse was getting more like $7-8 million a year, maybe.

PHE February 20, 2009

Yeah, difficult to say what cheap may or may not be in 2012.

The eternal optimist in me wants to believe the no-trade won’t be an issue, while he’s winning 16 games a year over the course. :)

BrewCards February 20, 2009

My only issue with the deal is the 4th year. Wainwright, Molina, and Carpenter hit their options that year in 2012 and may need extensions. Also 2012 is the year Pujols is going to be up for big money after his 2011 option.

No-trade clauses are waived all the time, so while it could be a minor inconvenience in the future I don’t see it as anything to worry about.

PHE February 20, 2009

Well, the only thing to consider then, is that waiving a no-trade clause is often a financial decision for a player.

So the Cards would either have to buy it out, or the team trading for Lohse would have to be willing to extend him immediately, etc.

That could have an effect on payroll as well, if the Cards are eating some portion of that no-trade clause financially while trying to re-up Pujols.

BrewCards February 20, 2009

That is true, but i don’t think that buying out a no-trade is a multi-million dollar deal. I think most of them are done for a few hundred thousand. Which in the grand scheme of things isn’t going to break the Cards.

PHE February 20, 2009

Depends on who you listen to. ;)

Jack Jones February 26, 2009

I think the Five O’Clock Blogger hit it right in that if the Cards waited they could have gotten either him or someone else cheaper, but who would have thought everyone was going to tighten their budgets so much this year?

PHE February 26, 2009

Lohse got his cash at the perfect time, no doubt about that. I just wonder if having that money available really would’ve meant a strong push for Lowe or someone else.

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