Last week, ESPN’s Jim Bowden listed the Red Sox among the teams he thinks make the most sense for Lohse. The Angels, Rangers, Brewers and Orioles were the other teams. While Bowden made it clear with his tweet that he was simply expressing his opinion, it led to widespread speculation about whether bringing Lohse to Boston really is a possibility.
WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford did a little investigating, though, and the major league source he spoke to reportedly said that it is “highly unlikely” the Red Sox will go after Lohse in free agency. While that does nothing to please the Lohse supporters lurking around Beantown, Sox fans should understand that steering clear of the veteran right-hander is the team’s best course of action.
It’s hard to doubt Lohse’s effectiveness for the Cardinals last season. The right-hander went 16-3, and finished seventh in National League Cy Young voting. His win-loss percentage (84.2 percent) was the best in baseball, while his WHIP (1.09) was sixth, his quality starts (24) were tied for sixth and his ERA (2.86) was eighth. All of this came after a successful 2010 campaign in which he went 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA.
But while production like that from a starting pitcher, especially one who figures to land in the middle of most rotations, is something that would improve any pitching staff, there are a few other not-so-pleasant facts that stand out when it comes to Lohse.
First of all, prior to 2011, Lohse was a rather mediocre starting pitcher. He had a 15-win season with the Cards in 2008, but other than that, he was relatively ineffective. He was particularly ineffective in the American League, where he spent parts of six seasons with the Twins. During that span, which ranged from 2001 to 2006, Lohse went 51-57 with a 4.88 ERA in 172 appearances (152 starts). Obviously, he’s a much better pitcher now, but the National League and American League often prove to be two different beasts, and that’s something that would really be alarming if he was to join a division as stacked as the AL East.
Then, there’s his age. Lohse is 34 years old, and while that doesn’t make him a gray beard by any means, he does have enough wear and tear that giving him a multiyear deal is a bit of a gamble in and of itself.
The biggest reason, however, that the Red Sox shouldn’t even give Lohse a glance is the draft pick compensation that’s tied to him. This is the same reason the Red Sox were reluctant to pursue guys like Adam LaRoche, Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano — all players who would have helped fill needs but who also had draft pick compensation attached.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, teams can opt to make impending free agents a qualifying offer, which is determined by averaging the top 125 salaries of the previous year. It’s a number that will fluctuate year to year, and it equaled out to $13.3 million this offseason. The Cardinals made Lohse such an offer, meaning he could have re-signed with St. Louis for one year at that salary, but he instead opted to test the open market. Under the CBA, if a player declines a qualifying offer, his former team is then entitled to draft pick compensation from the team that opts to sign the player
For many teams, this would require parting ways with a first-round draft pick and the money allotted to the pick in the team’s draft pool. Since the Red Sox had one of the 10 worst records in baseball in 2012, they would be required to give up a second-round pick, in addition to the allotted money. In other words, signing Lohse goes beyond just meeting the hurler’s financial demands. And with the Red Sox emphasizing player development and building from within, relinquishing a high draft pick and the money attached to it makes little sense, especially when you consider Boston’s rotation is pretty much set.
Sure, there’s the old adage that you can never have enough pitching. In this case, though, the Red Sox would be better off looking elsewhere.