Kyle Lohse—Free Agency Profile

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Name: Kyle Lohse

Position: Right-handed starting pitcher

Vital Statistics: Age—34; Height—6’2”; Weight—210 lbs; Bats—Right; Throws—Right

Transactions: June 1996—Selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 29th round of the MLB Draft

May 21, 1999—Traded by the Chicago Cubs with RHP Jason Ryan to the Minnesota Twins for RHP Rick Aguilera and LHP Scott Downs

July 31, 2006—Traded by the Twins to the Cincinnati Reds for RHP Zach Ward

July 30, 2007—Traded by the Reds to the Philadelphia Phillies for LHP Matt Maloney

March 13, 2008—Signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals

Agent: Scott Boras

Might he return to the Cardinals? Yes

Teams that could use and pay him: New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers

Positives: With the Cardinals, when he’s been healthy, he’s been a very good starter. He’s learned to pound the strike zone, keep the ball down and in the ballpark, and use his defense. Lohse had what amount to a career year in 2012, in part, because of a friendly BAbip of .267. That number was in line with another solid year he had in 2011 of .272. His advanced statistics of hits-per 9 innings; strikeouts-per 9 innings; walks and home runs-per 9 innings were the best of his career in 2012, but he’s been solid with those numbers his entire career. He’s consistent at home and on the road and against righties and lefties.

Negatives: He’s represented by Boras and in 2011-2012 he’s gone 30-11. Boras is going to ask for a lot of money, years, and benefits. Lohse turned his career around with the Cardinals under the tutelage of Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan; he maintained and got even better under Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist, but the lingering questions remain as to whether he can transition to another locale and stay this productive. He’s had injuries sabotaging his seasons and is 34-years-old.

What he’ll want: 4-years, $50 million with a partial no-trade clause

What he’ll get: 3-years, $35 million with a vesting option for 2016 at $15 million and a $2.5 million buyout

Teams that might give it to him: Orioles, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, Royals, Angels, Nationals, Marlins, Cardinals, Brewers, Dodgers

The Orioles need a starting pitcher to give them 32 starts and 200 innings with the stuff to keep the ball in the ballpark. They have money to spend, and are an agreeable location to play and win after their 93-win 2012.

The Red Sox are desperate for starting pitching and have money to burn. The Blue Jays also have money, are trying to win, and are seeking another starter. The Tigers won’t want to overpay to keep Anibal Sanchez and Lohse is cheaper and shorter-term. I wrote yesterday that rather than trade one of their young bats for a starting pitcher, the Royals should delve into the free agent market and Lohse is a reasonable target. The Angels might be desperate if they can’t keep Zack Greinke and Lohse falls into a “next level” category in terms of knowing what to expect, price, and availability. The Nationals might be in on Greinke; have the prospects to trade for James Shields; or could jump in on Lohse as a fallback. They have a sound relationship with Boras and tons of cash.

I mention the Marlins because with everyone in baseball angry at what they did in their gutting trade with the Blue Jays, it’s possible that Jeffrey Loria might want to placate the critics by doing something like signing Lohse. I doubt it will happen, but no one saw that trade coming either.

The Cardinals will make an offer to Lohse and it probably won’t be high enough in dollars or years, but if his market crashes, he could end up going back to St. Louis. The Brewers have money, talent and want to win; the Dodgers can’t be discounted for any free agent and need an arm.

Would I sign Lohse? Not for what Boras is going to want. If he’s on the outside looking in and I could get him for two years with a reasonable option based on performance, I’d sign him.

Will it be a retrospective mistake for the team that signs him? If they acquiesce to Boras’s demands that will reach $45-55 million, they will. I’d keep him out of the American League.

Analysis: If there’s a bigger “we don’t know” in baseball’s free agency this side of Josh Hamilton, it’s Lohse. Which Lohse would a team other than the Cardinals be getting? Would it be the homer-prone mediocrity he was with the Phillies and Reds? The pretty good mid-rotation starter he was at times with the Twins or the highly hittable arm he was at the end of his Twins tenure? The All-Star, innings-eating winner he was for long spurts with the Cardinals or the shaky and injured pitcher?

In my mind, I keep seeing flashes of Cardinals pitchers of the past who’ve fallen apart after they left the winning organization, friendly confines of Busch Stadium, the supportive fans, and baseball-loving atmosphere from a bygone era. The vision tells me to shy away from Lohse.

One example in particular is Lohse’s former teammate Joel Pineiro. Like Lohse, Pineiro’s career was floundering before he got to St. Louis and was willing to listen to Duncan and alter his mechanics, mental and physical approach and become something different from what he was in order to save his career. He rejuvenated and reinvented himself to garner a 2-year, $16 million contract from the Angels when he should’ve stayed with the Cardinals. He started off well in Anaheim, they altered his mechanics from what had been undone and rebuilt by Duncan, and he suffered injuries to his oblique and shoulder. Pineiro pitched in 5 minor league games for the Orioles in 2012 and, barring another comeback, appears to be finished at 34.

It’s a cautionary tale for a club thinking of believing the Cardinals Lohse is the Lohse they’ll get.

Prediction: Lohse will sign a 3-year deal with the Nationals.


Cycle Over A Cliff

Books, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

It wasn’t all that long ago that Lenny Dykstra could be referenced as a breaker of stereotypes.

The myth of the typical brain-dead jock who had no interest in reading; wasn’t concerned about nuance; didn’t truly grasp what he was doing in business was shattered by Dykstra’s “success” after his baseball career ended.

Dykstra’s perception as a business savant was evidenced by the amount of money he supposedly had; the business deals he was willing to partake as a high-stakes gambler (something he also had a fondness for). He was willing and able to do whatever he needed to do to make it. As one of the more egregious and early examples of PED use becoming prevalent in baseball, of course Dykstra was willing to go that extra mile without fear of consequences.

Some see that as an attribute and it is…to a point.

He accumulated a lot of credit and bought a lot of stuff; he’d built a reputation as one who transformed himself up from a ballplayer to a boardroom titan whose aggressiveness on the field meshed seamlessly into the corporate world.

No, it wasn’t all that long ago that I shook my head and said, “Of all the Mets from the 1980s who you’d expect to hit it big off-the-field as an entrepreneur, Dykstra was the last one you’d pick.”

That was a team that housed Yale graduate Ron Darling; BYU graduate Rick Aguilera and other highly intelligent people.

But it was Dykstra who built up an empire.

Or so we thought.

It turns out that the instinctive belief of “no way”—based on historical facts that we were too brainwashed to believe—was accurate.

The empire wasn’t real, but the image was. Those who dealt with him treated the others who’d encountered him before as a barometer. “Well, if (blank) says Dykstra’s okay, then Dykstra must be okay.”

It was a cycle.

A cycle over a cliff.

Dykstra was arrested yesterday and charged with a whole host of white collar crimes relating to his myriad of businesses—most of which were feeding into one another as a Madoff-lite style bit of financial roulette and chicanery—ESPN Story.

While playing, Dykstra had no concept of half-speed. It was 1000 miles per hour on and off the field. Gambling? Partying? Playing as hard as he could and acting like an obnoxious, loud-mouthed (though still likable to some degree in a Manny being Manny sort of way) jerk? PEDs? Playoff homers? Writing books?

Lenny did it all.

It was easy to ignore his behaviors; his punch-drunk slurring when speaking; that he wasn’t educated enough to know what he was doing in the financial realm.

Because he had a large credit line, flamboyant lifestyle and the ability to purchase, rent, hire, buy and sell, Dykstra had “made it”.

But he hadn’t.

Unlike a true visionary like Steve Jobs; or a financial wizard like Warren Buffett, Dykstra didn’t do anything. He’d built up a lucrative car wash business—intelligently—while he was still playing, but that wasn’t enough. He had to be a big shot. All or nothing.

Unlike one who builds and creates, Dykstra’s money was the shifting and manipulation of paper; the use of his name and press clippings as a lever to gain access to cash and people with cash.

But it was a ruse that cannibalized itself.

Didn’t anyone who dealt personally with Dykstra stop and consider the possibility that it was all a farce?

Sometimes you need to take a step back and do the math; examine the reality of the stories people tell and calculate their likelihood.

It had to be right in front of their eyes, but the foundation of his acumen—success as a baseball player—wasn’t a building block for that billionaire future he envisioned. It was a sham.

Now Dykstra’s been arrested. Presumably, there are a lot of people swindled out money and time who must be wondering why they didn’t see the warning signs.

They saw them—they must have—but ignored them.

Dykstra was the last person from that Mets team you’d think would have huge non-baseball success post-career.

And he didn’t.


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