Texas Rangers Signing Kyle Lohse Would Put Team Over the Top

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2013

Kyle Lohse is the best starting pitcher left on the free-agent market.
Kyle Lohse is the best starting pitcher left on the free-agent market.Elsa/Getty Images

If the Texas Rangers are serious about returning to the World Series this year, they should throw caution to the wind and sign Kyle Lohse.

The 34-year-old went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA last season, but there are plenty of reasons to claim that pursuing Lohse is fiscally irresponsible.

There's more to the puzzle than wins (a highly-flawed measure of a pitcher's worth) and ERA. Lohse posted a 3.51 FIP last year and a 3.67 FIP the year before that, so a move to a hitter's park in the American League could expose his true skill level.

He's also terribly average at striking out batters, accumulating a 5.65 K/9 ratio throughout his 12-year career.

Furthermore, signing Lohse would force Texas to relinquish a draft pick to the St. Louis Cardinals for compensation. As a team that has thrived through a flourishing farm system, Texas won't take that cost lightly.

But, despite all that, the Rangers could really use Lohse's services to keep up with baseball's other top clubs.

When exploring all of Lohse's flaws, those who are willing to look beyond just the win-loss record end up taking their disapproval of the veteran too far.

A 34-year-old with little strikeout ability usually falls near the bottom of an astute general manager's wish list. But in Lohse's defense, he amends for the strikeout deficiency by allowing few free passes. In 211 innings last season, he only allowed 38 walks.

His propensity to generate ground balls helps him continually defy the Sabermetrics. A 2.86 ERA won't happen again (especially not in Texas), but he's still capable of posting a mark around the mid-threes, perhaps a drop lower.

According to FanGraphs, Lohse accumulated a 3.6 WAR. When fighting for playoff positioning, three wins can play a major factor in determining who makes the postseason and who goes home.

Shaun Marcum, the second-best start available, tallied a 1.4 WAR in a season where injuries yet again plagued the righty. There's no durability issue with Lohse, who has made at least 30 starts in eight separate seasons.

With Colby Lewis' return from a torn tendon in his right elbow in question, Texas is currently rolling with Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. Lohse could provide the rotation with some much-needed reliability.

For anyone thinking the Rangers will have amassed too much pitching depth if Lewis returns strong and Martin Perez proves deserving of a big-league rotation spot, there's no such thing as too much pitching depth.

Last year, New Yorkers were worried about which Yankee would be the odd man out of a stacked rotation. Then Michael Pineda went down for the season, Andy Pettitte eventually joined him on the disabled list and Ivan Nova failed to gather the glossy win total necessary to appease fans despite posting lackluster numbers.

If everything does pan out perfectly, the Rangers can ship Ogando back to their bullpen, where Perez can also work from during a postseason stint. 

Failing to sign another arm would create an open spot for most of the season. Mixing and matching between starters while searching for a permanent solution could cost Texas precious victories that they can't afford to cough up.

Is Rafael Soriano the best reliever in baseball? Not even close. Did he deserve a two-year, $28 million deal? Probably not. But the Washington Nationals realized that another talented reliever could fill their last remaining hole and propel them to championship status. 

The signing may not have made sense on paper, but it made sense for Washington. Texas faces a similar situation with Lohse.

Lohse is not an ace. He can't voyage anywhere close to becoming Texas' next Cliff Lee. But in this gruesome, fading free-agent market, he's the best remaining option. 

So even if they overpay for an old, slightly overrated pitcher while forfeiting a valuable draft pick in the process, signing Kyle Lohse still might be necessary if Texas wants to win a title.


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