A Kyle Lohse Back-and-Forth

Below, a back-and-forth.

Jeff Sullivan
Michael Bourn finally got signed, right before the start of spring training. Bourn’s signing leaves only Kyle Lohse among available free agents of consequence. Lohse, of course, is going to sign somewhere eventually, if only because spring training means starting pitchers will get hurt, but it’s hard to identify a destination, as no one’s — publicly — a sweepstakes favorite.

A big problem is that people don’t seem to trust Kyle Lohse. Another big problem, and maybe a bigger problem, is that Lohse was extended a qualifying offer, meaning he’d cost a signing team a draft pick. Teams this offseason have been highly protective of their draft picks, and the Mets, for example, decided they’d rather have a first-round pick than Michael Bourn. I’m curious, then, about a Kyle Lohse hypothetical. Let’s say that Lohse were available at the league minimum for the cost of a first-round draft pick. He’s not, presumably, but: would you do it? In other words, how highly do you value that early selection?

Dave Cameron
For some teams, this is an absolute no-brainer. Texas, for instance. Their highest pick is #24 overall, and their #5 starter is currently projected to be Martin Perez, who wasn’t even a good Triple-A starter last year. They’re at the prime spot on the win curve where each marginal win is maximized, and Lohse is probably a +2 to +3 win upgrade over their internal candidates for the spot. A league minimum Lohse is worth at least $10 million to Texas, and probably more like $15 to $20 million because of their specific situation. You’d have to have an incredibly aggressive valuation of the #24 pick in the draft to expect $15 to $20 million from that spot, even if you think you could redistribute some of the bonus pool towards other picks as well.

So, yeah, if Lohse announced he’d sign for the league minimum, I’d imagine a team like Texas would sign him in a heartbeat. But, I think you could make a pretty decent case for almost every team to sign Lohse at that price, even the non-contenders.

Think about how much trade value Lohse might have in June as a league minimum hurler. Last summer, Ryan Dempster brought back a pretty solid prospect in Christian Villanueva. Paul Maholm brought back Arodys Vizcaino. These guys aren’t flame-throwing aces, and they weren’t making the league minimum, and they still had enough trade value to bring back real prospects, certainly guys closer to the Majors than anyone you’d take in June’s draft.

Even for a team with an unprotected pick in the 11-20 range who might not expect to be a contender, I think you could make a pretty strong case that Lohse’s mid-season trade value should bring more in return than whatever player you’d select with that first round pick this summer, especially if Lohse is making nothing in salary. A draft pick is valuable, certainly, but the idea that there’s no price at which Lohse on a one year deal is more valuable than a first round pick seems particularly myopic.

JS
I was going to say that the strongest test might be looking at the Mets, since they currently have the first unprotected pick in the summer. It’s the pick they refused to surrender in order to sign Michael Bourn. But, looking at the Mets, they in particular don’t seem like a great fit for Lohse, depending on what you make of Dillon Gee. There would be the opportunity for the Mets to sign Lohse and trade someone else, but. Easier to look at this with the Mariners and Padres, who have the next picks after the Mets.

Those are high picks that would be surrendered: 12th and 13th overall. Every draft pick has a certain value, and these slots are almost as valuable as you’re going to get when it comes to picks surrendered for players. Both the Mariners and Padres have obvious room in their starting rotations for a pitcher like Lohse. Both the Mariners and Padres are also close enough that signing Lohse might not necessarily be a move to have a trade piece for later. Lohse could boost them toward the win curve sweet spot, by providing an upgrade over the in-house options, and if the teams still weren’t successful enough, then trading Lohse could be considered.

One can’t tackle this question without thinking about Lohse’s 2013 value, and the last two years, he’s been worth six wins by one measure and 8.5 wins by another. This correlates to a huge increase in first-pitch strike rate, and Lohse seems like he should be at least a 2-3 win pitcher next season. That gives him $10-15 million in value, and where this gets confusing is thinking about the short-term value of 2013 Lohse versus the long-term value of a good draft pick. Teams absolutely love the idea of years of team control, but to get so protective of draft picks is to express an awful lot of faith in your amateur scouting and player development. How safe are these draft picks, really? You don’t know what you’re going to get around 12th or 13th, but you can think of that guy as a low-level prospect. There will be zero value for at least a year or two, and then maybe, just maybe, the prospect starts advancing and making a difference.

It’s great to think about the long-term. It’s important. It’s critical. But near value is of greater value than distant value, and Lohse could provide immediate value on the order of a few extra wins. He could suck, but the draft pick could bust, and the odds are greater of the latter than the former. I don’t know, exactly, the value of a draft pick in the teens, but I can’t imagine it’s greater than $10 million. I can’t imagine it’s actually close to $10 million. That’s what Lohse could deliver in one stretch of six months.

Over time, teams should be getting better at drafting, in theory. Teams should also be getting better at developing the players they drafted. But there’s a difference between a big leaguer and a minor leaguer, and there’s a difference between a minor leaguer and a draft pick. It’s right to highly value young talent and cost-controlled players, but somehow I feel like people are underestimating the bust potential of a mid-round selection. When did this start?

DC
It’s funny that some writers have pushed the idea of this off-season as being the end of teams overrating prospects, pointing to the Shields/Dickey trade returns and the Mariners attempted Upton trade, while at the same time we’re seeing what appears to be a growing reluctance to surrender a draft pick to sign a free agent. Those things can’t really both be true, right? Teams can’t be devaluing prospects while increasing their valuations of draft picks, which are basically just the prospect of a prospect. I mean, they could be, but it wouldn’t make any sense.

Some of it certainly seems like a reaction to the inability to redistribute the money that would have gone to the pick towards other picks. In the past, a lost pick meant that you’d just overpay someone later, or spend more on the international side. A team could compensate for the lost pick, and lessen the impact of the forfeited selection. They can’t do that anymore. So now, losing a pick is more harmful than it used to be, at least in terms of prospect acquisition.

But you’re right, the prospects themselves aren’t becoming any less risky. We’re still talking about a draft that has massive diminishing returns after the first few selections, and this draft class apparently isn’t very exciting after the top few college arms. I think both the Mariners and Padres should at least be willing to consider signing Lohse to a cheap deal, knowing that the outcome is either surprise contention or flipping a decent trade chip in a couple of months. The league minimum is unrealistic, but what about $5 million? Shouldn’t Lohse look at a $5 million paycheck to play in an extreme pitcher’s park for a few months before likely being traded to a contender — thus nullifying any chance of his getting a qualifying offer next year — be a pretty appealing outcome, given his current circumstance? It sure seems like this could be an out for everyone involved. It would just take one of these teams to give up on the idea of a first round pick being so much more valuable than the prospect they could acquire in a few months when they trade Lohse.

Maybe the real best option here is Cleveland. The next pick they’d have to surrender is around #100 or so. It’s not worthless, but it’s not worth a lot, and the Indians staff could use the help. Boras just steered Bourn to Cleveland. Maybe the Indians should be scrounging through the couch cushions to find money for Lohse too.

JS
The Indians definitely seem like they’d be a pretty good fit, although now we’re straying from our first-round-pick hypothetical. In some small way, the new CBA incentivizes teams to sign multiple compensation free agents, because the picks you surrender get progressively less valuable, allowing you to put more money into the actual contract itself. For the Indians, the value of the next pick they’d give up is such that it’s almost like they’re not giving up a pick at all. The value of that pick would be, what, $1 million? Considerably less than $1 million? That’s hardly anything worth worrying about.

A big part of this has to be the inability to redistribute money in the draft. I can’t forget the Mariners giving up a mid-round pick a decade ago in order to sign Greg Colbrunn, who was essentially a pinch-hitter. That’s just one example, and it’s an extreme example, but teams didn’t used to be nearly so afraid of this. It is undoubtedly a factor, but it seems to me — without having any personal access — that teams have overreacted. They’re erring on the side of trusting amateurs more than trusting established veterans. That’s simplifying too much, but there’s a lot of faith being put in guys who haven’t yet played professionally, and who aren’t among the top 10 or 20 draft-eligible players.

It’s a prospect. A first-round draft pick is a prospect. You can’t spend to get first-round talent in the second round anymore, really, but you can still get second-round talent in the second round, so losing that first pick doesn’t cripple the rest of the draft. It just makes it worse, by a certain amount. I don’t want to start repeating myself.

There’s a sense that some teams don’t want to give up a first-round pick in exchange for one year (or two years) of service. It’s noble — teams want to think long-term — but wouldn’t you almost prefer to have Lohse for one year instead of three or four or five years, just given what we know about him? Doesn’t talking about years just confuse the issue, when the issue is, very simply, the value of Lohse versus the value of a pick? If you have two things that might be worth $10 million, wouldn’t you rather have the one that could provide that value sooner? These picks seem like they’re being evaluated by their potential ceiling, which is the worst mistake.

DC
All this agreement is getting boring. I’m going to stop talking now so you can go post us congratulating each other on being so smart. High five, us.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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byron
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byron
3 years 7 months ago

I don’t think you really addressed the situation from Lohse’s point of view. I’d bet there are half a dozen or more teams who have 1 year/$5m offers on the table like you suggest, but Lohse and Boras are still looking for more years and money. Boras is pretty good at surprising us, so I’d bet he ends up signing for something like 1/$15m or 3/$35 and we all understand why he didn’t jump to sign with someone for $5m.

Uncle Randy
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Uncle Randy
3 years 7 months ago

The Braves make sense to me, and they already lost their first rd’er anyway.

Tim
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Tim
3 years 7 months ago

I agree, although they do have their compensation pick for Bourn. Another problem for them is, their farm system is already so weak.. But yeah it would make the braves rotation much stronger, and would help out when the inevitable injury comes around

wilt
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wilt
3 years 7 months ago

Who gets displaced from the rotation then? As a Braves fan I briefly thought about this but unless you are going to put Teheran in AAA again it doesn’t make much sense unless Teheran has demonstrated that he can’t cut it in the majors, which he hasn’t.

cass
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cass
3 years 7 months ago

What about the Cardinals? They wouldn’t have to give up a draft pick. Have they completely ruled out signing Lohse?

LuftyJones
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LuftyJones
3 years 7 months ago

I was waiting for that topic to come for the entire article…then it was over.

Anon
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Anon
3 years 7 months ago

The Cardinals would effectively give up the compensation pick they are expecting from Lohse signing elsewhere.

Also, the young pitching in the Cardinal organization makes Lohse a minimal upgrade.

JS
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JS
3 years 7 months ago

Just asking but wouldn’t Lohse make sense for the Cardinals? He be a stablizing figure in the rotation in case any of the young guys stumble and if they look good, he could be traded. Or if Garcia’s shoulder starting acting up again…

Anon
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Anon
3 years 7 months ago

Lohse would have 5/10 rights if he signed with the Cardinals and would be unlikely to accept a trade.

thehotteststove
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thehotteststove
3 years 7 months ago

I’m pretty confident about Garcia’s health this year, because the Cards have already watched Garcia throw and if there were any causes for concern then the Cards would have already crawled back to Lohse… they’re actually kind of lucky Lohse’s situation has drug out this long so they would still have the option of calling Lohse back.

Obviously, we can’t trust front offices when they TELL us everything looks good with a player’s health, but in this case we can certainly observe their actions and they seem comfortable moving forward with what they have…

chuckb
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chuckb
3 years 7 months ago

He’s a minimal upgrade now, but signing him would allow the Cardinals to keep Miller and/or Rosenthal in the minors for 3 months to insure that they’re ready for the rotation. The Cards could then try and spin Lohse off to another contender at the trade deadline — as Dave and Jeff suggested with the Mariners and Padres — and try to improve the team at the SS position (where it desperately needs help).

They don’t have to keep him if they sign him. They just have to keep him until (I believe) June 1. After that, he’s a tradeable commodity and they can call Miller or Rosenthal up after a couple of extra months of minor league preparation.

Or the Cards could hang on to him if it turns out that Garcia’s not healthy. Then they could trade him next offseason.

It’s something the Cards should consider.

Sparkles Peterson
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Sparkles Peterson
3 years 7 months ago

Offers Lohse and Boras a way of saving face too. I doubt we’d hear anything before it happened, but now that pitchers are in camp and the coaching staff has a chance to see what Garcia’s arm looks like, I’m guessing it could move pretty quickly if there is a need.

Cidron
Member
Cidron
3 years 7 months ago

not sure if I agree with the face saving aspect.. Lohse is out there, in the cold. Cardinals have moved on. If they wanted him back, they would have extended an offer right after Carpenter’s injury announcement. They didn’t.

commenter #1
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commenter #1
3 years 7 months ago

st louis’s rotation is fine even without carpenter; wainwright/westbrook/lynn/garcia/miller

Anon21
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Anon21
3 years 7 months ago

Teams absolutely love the idea of years of team control, but to get so protective of draft picks is to express an awful lot of faith in your amateur scouting and player development.

It almost seems like the opposite, no? It seems like the top 20 or so guys in any given draft are a matter of wide consensus, such that picking up there is a valuable opportunity, but one where you forego most of the competitive advantage you’d receive from a superior amateur talent division. If you’re a team that’s confident that your scouting and player development are better than the competition, you should be more comfortable picking later, because you think your guys are a) better at spotting talent that might be overlooked by other teams, and b) better at spinning straw into gold, in the likely event that you do have to take a hit on prospect quality by picking later. What am I missing?

Ryan
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Ryan
3 years 7 months ago

I don’t believe that any team thinks that Lohse is worth less than a first round pick. The issue is that Lohse wants to be paid what he is worth, while teams want to pay him for how they will help him.

Let’s say a first round pick is valued at $5 million (amount does not matter)
If Lohse wants to sign a contract for 1 year $15 million, a team may agree that he is worth that contract, but since they would lose a $5 million pick, they would only offer him $10 million.

Teams also don’t want to give Lohse a long term contract, which makes this much more extreme. If a team was giving him a 5 year deal, it would result in $1 mil per year; however, since teams are hesitant to give him anything long term, the value of the pick is taking more off his yearly salary.

It may just be a matter of time before either (A) Lohse decides to take less money or (B) a team gets desperate enough to pay Lohse what he is worth and take the loss for the pick.

Spit Ball
Member
Spit Ball
3 years 7 months ago

I think one reason teams are more protective a draftpicks nowadays is that the scouting has been so much better. Teams have invested more money in their delopmental systems and you don’t have as many Wade Boggs, Don Mattingly’s and Mike Piazza slipping way down the draft board. The other part of that is that in many cases nowadays teams have a little less projecting to do. Nowadays when a 12 year old Harold Baines is found they are specializing in one sport, getting top training during basketball and football season and being drafted at 18 years old as something closer to a fully developed athlete. No one is telling 16 year olds not to lift weights anymore. I think this is particurally true for the first five rounds or so. In addition the sabermetric community has aided scouts in finding the players skills that are most important to future success. Bottom line is their are more “hits” in the first couple draft rounds, particurally within the last 10 or 20 years. That being said, any team picking 11 on that had a chance to sign Kyle loshe at the veteran minimum would be stupid not to. Even if your the Dodgers and you have way to many arms already, you find a spot for him and trade him in July unless he is providing the three WAR Beckett is not.

byron
Member
byron
3 years 7 months ago

I’d like to see a study of whether or not all stars aren’t coming out of the later rounds as often. Anecdotally, Pujols was drafted pretty late, then was immediately awesome. That wasn’t so long ago, but if you want to claim the trend is more recent than that, Matt Moore, the guy neck-and-neck with Trout and Harper for top prospect before last season, went in the 8th round. Are there really fewer stars coming out late?

commenter #1
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commenter #1
3 years 7 months ago

pujols wasn’t drafted late because he wasn’t good, but because there were concerns over his age

byron
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byron
3 years 7 months ago

So?

Bad Bill
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Bad Bill
3 years 7 months ago

Nope. The concerns were about his fitness, to the extent that “concerns” had anything to do with it. Largely, he just fell through the cracks.

chuckb
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chuckb
3 years 7 months ago

The concerns were more about his weight at the time. He apparently was pretty large and not in very good physical shape.

Spit Ball
Member
Spit Ball
3 years 7 months ago

I think I stated that somewhat incorrectly. I’m not sure whether less players are coming out of the later rounds less frequently. What I do know after examining first round and arbitration picks is that teams are hitting more often (still not a majority of the time) on early picks. I guess that led me to simply think that this meant that less players were being found deep in the draft. In retrospect that does not mean that certain players are not coming from later rounds and blooming. I jumped to a correlation that is not necessarilly true and i have no study to back it up.

jdbolick
Member
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Jim Callis of Baseball America recently did a cursory analysis of this very subject: http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/ask-ba/2013/2614695.html According to what he found, teams aren’t doing significantly better early in the draft than they did 15-20 years ago.

Mike
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Mike
3 years 7 months ago

I can’t see the Rangers wanting to add a fly ball pitcher — even a good one — with that park of theirs.

Andy
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Andy
3 years 7 months ago

The Rangers have Colby Lewis, a noted flyball pitcher with whom they’ve had lots of success. The question is, does that make them more likely to take a chance on another pretty good flyball pitcher in Lohse, or less likely with the understanding that having one such guy on the staff is bad enough?

night_manimal
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night_manimal
3 years 7 months ago

You have a lot of great points regarding the value of draft picks but one I constantly see missed on this site is their worth as capital when teams trade for established players. Considering the going rate for established players like Shields or Dickey seem to be anywhere from two to four of a team’s top 10 prospects, the value of having those prospects in numbers can’t be underestimated. It certainly seems teams are viewing the prospects this way in addition to the added flexibility of spending the slot money for that pick as they see fit.

byron
Member
byron
3 years 7 months ago

This makes no sense. Your prospects are valuable to other teams for their expected major-league value. Your prospects are valuable to you for the same. You draft players to try and get prospects with expected major-league value. There’s no reason that trade value differs from drafting value because you’re always pursuing the same thing.

night_manimal
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night_manimal
3 years 7 months ago

The very fact that it takes multiple prospects for a single established player was the point I was trying to make. The fact is that prospects are like penny stocks. Usually one or two out of ten end up being worth anything but you need them in bulk to improve the chances that you find the one or two worth something. It’s very rare that you see someone of Shields or Dickey go straight up for a single prospect. This is because the risk of the prospects not working out has to be taken into account. By your logic you are assuming that the prospects potential value is in fact already realized and this is just not the case. Clubs know this and spread the risk over multiple prospects just like investors in penny stocks.

Franco
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Franco
3 years 7 months ago

I’m sure he has a couple 1 year offers on the table from the contending teams. I doubt the draft compensation bothers them as much as the long term contract Boras is holding out for.

chiefs
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chiefs
3 years 7 months ago

It is not just a draft pick anymore; it is also the money that comes along with the pick.

chuckb
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chuckb
3 years 7 months ago

Which the team would use, presumably, on the first round pick.

Very few teams saved any real money in the last draft by signing players under-slot. A few saved a little $, but not a ton. Most 1st round picks are going to be paid at or around slot, or even above-slot so getting rid of the pick costs the team very little money.

jdbolick
Member
Member
3 years 7 months ago

This is one place where looking at the NFL might be beneficial. Those teams spend lavishly on unrestricted free agents, but often balk at trading a first round pick for an impending free agent since they don’t want to surrender the draft choice in addition to paying a monster contract. It seems like there is a psychological aversion to paying both more so than a coldly rational analysis of the costs involved.

@Bobbleheadguru
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

Tigers would have been a good fit in Comerica Park… but you cannot have a 7 man rotation.

Hypothetically, they could trade BOTH Porcello and Smyly and get 4-5 good “under control” prospects (2+ years away).

Then, they could get Lohse for 2 years which is their “expiring contract window” with Verlander, Scherzer, VMart and Hunter.

This would give the Tigers the best rotation in baseball (Verlander, Scherzer, Lohse, Sanchez, Fister) AND young players for 2015 and beyond… when their payroll will likely dip. The lost pick would be eclipsed by the value they would be getting from return for Porcello/Smyly.

So what would it take for the Tigers to sign Lohse for 2 years? $25-28MM?

DaveB
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DaveB
3 years 7 months ago

One aspect of the new CBA, that I haven’t seen much comment on, is that I think the new constraints / penalties have significantly brought DOWN the cost of players drafted under the new CBA (i.e., no more “overpaying” causes more players to sign at “slot”). By lowering the cost of drafted players, they increased the value of draft picks.

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