With so few Spring Training days remaining, time is running out for free agents to sign with a team and be ready for opening day. The most prominent player who is still without a contract is Kyle Lohse.
Despite pitching to a sub-3.00 earned run average in 33 starts in 2012, Lohse has yet to find a team. Lohse went 30-11 in the past two years with the St. Louis Cardinals, but could start the season unemployed.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that having success in St. Louis has likely hurt Lohse. There is a belief that Dave Duncan helped revitalize Lohse’s career, but he won’t be as good without the pitching coach. Duncan coached Lohse from 2008-2011.
In the first half of his career, Lohse posted rather average numbers in the American League. He had just a 4.88 ERA, with his best seasons coming in his early 30s. Teams seem to be wary of giving up their first-round draft pick in order to sign a 34-year-old that has had seven losing seasons.
Lohse was one of the best National League starters in the past two years, so there’s a good chance he will find work soon. However, only a few teams will realistically consider signing him.
The New York Yankees seemed like a possible suitor. Their rotation is pretty much set, but Phil Hughes has been fighting a back injury, and there’s a chance he won’t be ready for the Yankees first series of the year. Olney, though, reports that Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras, was told by New York that they are not interested.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports suggests that the Milwaukee Brewers are the ideal candidate to sign Lohse. The team has some money to spend, since lowering the payroll from last year, and adding another good pitcher could make them one of the favorites in the NL.
In 2012, Milwaukee had the best offense in the NL with 776 runs scored. They were hurt by a 4.22 ERA, which put them 22nd in baseball. After Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers have a lot of questions marks in their rotation. Coming off two strong years in the NL Central, there is little reason to believe that Lohse couldn’t put up similar numbers in 2013 with Milwaukee.
Other potential suitors include the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers. Boston has questions with Felix Doubront, who went 1-5 in August and September. Texas is still without Colby Lewis, who won’t be ready to start the season on time.
Taking such a long time to sign with a team shouldn’t affect Lohse’s performance for the regular season. In 2008, he didn’t sign with the Cardinals until March 8, and he ended up having the best season of his career at that point.