The Pros and Cons of the Red Sox Acquiring Kyle Lohse
Who says the Red Sox’s offseason is over?
There’s still a top free-agent starting pitcher available—one who was even ranked No. 6 in Keith Law’s top 50 free agents on ESPN.com.
The Red Sox already added Ryan Dempster to the starting rotation, but adding another profile starting pitcher couldn’t hurt.
To acquire Kyle Lohse, the Red Sox would have to surrender both a draft pick and a two-year or three-year contract worth approximately $15 million per season.
However, Boston would get a pitcher with a 30-11 record, 3.11 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over the last two seasons in return.
Lohse could help a lot of teams, especially the Red Sox, whose starters collectively posted a 5.19 ERA in 2012.
The following slides reveal three pros and three cons of the Red Sox acquiring Lohse in the final months of the offseason.
Pro No. 1: Lohse Is in His Prime, Coming off Back-to-Back Career Years
Kyle Lohse posted career-best numbers in wins (16), losses (3), ERA (2.86), WHIP (1.09), BAA (.239) and strikeouts (143) in 2012.
In the year before that, the 34-year-old also posted a 14-8 record with a 3.39 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and .249 BAA.
Those numbers are better than all five of the current Red Sox's starting pitchers during that span.
Only Clay Buchholz has finished a season with a sub 3.00 ERA—2.33 in 2010—in his career. None of the five have finished a season with a WHIP as low as 1.09. None of the five pitchers have recorded 30 wins over the last two seasons.
Lohse also has recent playoff experience, unlike the other five pitchers.
Through his first three postseason starts, the Cardinals pitcher posted a 2-0 record with a 1.96 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. But on one less day of rest, Lohse was shelled in Game 7 of the NLCS against the Giants.
Lohse has been one of the better pitchers in the league since 2011. He would be a great addition to any team, especially the Red Sox, whose starting pitching needs help.
Con No. 1: The Red Sox Already Have Five Starting Pitchers
The Red Sox's starting rotation is already filled out with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, John Lackey and Felix Doubront.
Adding a sixth starting pitcher would complicate the rotation. No team in baseball has a six-man rotation.
More importantly, none of the five starting pitchers should or would be demoted to the bullpen or Pawtucket.
Lester and Buchholz are still the team’s aces. Between 2010 and 2011, they posted a 57-28 record, 3.10 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 8.1 K/9. Their bounce backs are vital for the Red Sox being contenders again.
Dempster just signed a two-year, $26.5 million contract. It wouldn’t make sense to demote their newly added, expensive starting pitcher.
Lackey is coming off a year of rehab following Tommy John surgery. He’s pitched terribly with the Red Sox in his first two seasons, but a player with an $82.5 million contract is too expensive to bench and give up on just yet.
Lastly, Doubront is on the brink of a huge season. Prior to the All-Star break, the 25-year-old southpaw posted a 9-4 record with an average 4.41 ERA but a great 9.1 K/9.
The Red Sox filled their hole in the rotation by signing Dempster, and the team has Franklin Morales, who can serve as a spot starter barring an injury, as well.
Boston does not need a sixth starting pitcher on the roster.
Pro No. 2: Another Starting Pitcher Adds Depth and Insurance
Speaking of injuries, the Red Sox have encountered many of those in the last few seasons. Three of the five current starting pitchers were placed on the disabled list last season.
Clay Buchholz was on the DL and missed more than three weeks. He pitched only 82.2 innings in 2011, as well.
Felix Doubront was on the DL in 2012, and the young pitcher will have an another increased work load in 2013.
Lastly, John Lackey missed all of the 2012 season with Tommy John surgery.
Because of all the injuries in 2012, Aaron Cook had 19 starts, Franklin Morales started nine games, and Daisuke Matsuzaka was even allowed 11 starts.
Adding Kyle Lohse would give insurance to the Red Sox barring an injury and if a starter has a terrible season.
Lackey has yet to have a successful season in Boston. Ryan Dempster could struggle pitching in the American League. Lester, Buchholz or Doubront might not bounce back following disappointing 2012 seasons.
It would be expensive insurance, but having Lohse in the rotation during a flux of injuries or struggles is better than an Aaron Cook-type of pitcher.
Con No. 2: Lohse Would Limit Payroll Flexibility for 2014 and 2015
It’s highly unlikely that Kyle Lohse signs a one-year deal. It’s very unlikely that he also signs a deal worth less than $13 million per year.
Maxing out the team's payroll would limit financial flexibility for the Red Sox in the following two years.
The Red Sox should preserve this extra money for next year’s offseason. This would allow Boston to have more flexibility in signing a free agent or preserving star players on its roster.
Mike Napoli recently restructured his three-year contract and agreed to a one-year deal with the Red Sox. It is not guaranteed that he will be wearing a Red Sox uniform in 2014 and 2015.
Jacoby Ellsbury could be traded away or also enter free agency following the 2013 season.
The Red Sox will need hefty spending money to fill those major positional voids in next year’s offseason.
By signing Lohse, the Red Sox will invest approximately $40-45 million over three years in the team's sixth starting pitcher.
Instead of spending $25-30 million on Ryan Dempster and Lohse, the Red Sox could have even signed a premier pitcher like Zack Greinke or Anibal Sanchez.
With the extra money, the Red Sox should try to sign a much cheaper veteran and use him as insurance, not spend it on a sixth starter.
Pro No. 3: Lohse Would Be a Short-Term Signing
The trend for the Red Sox this offseason is to sign free agents to expensive short-term deals.
Signing Kyle Lohse would continue that trend.
Since Lohse is 34 years old and has not been a dominant pitcher over his career, a two-year or three-year contract would best suit both sides.
Instead of signing elite free agents—Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, Anibal Sanchez—to long-term deals, the Red Sox have signed players to one-year, two-year or three-year deals this offseason.
Signing Lohse would be a short-term financial commitment. In the long run, the Red Sox will have massive, future payroll flexibility, because most of players’ contracts end within the next few years.
The Red Sox could cough up the last of their money for another short-term player. Lohse could be the last big signing for the team entering 2013.
Con No. 3: Lohse Posted Below-Average Numbers Prior to 2011
Kyle Lohse has been great since 2011. His numbers prove it.
However, prior to his hot streak, he was just a mediocre big-league pitcher.
Only once in the previous 10 years did Lohse have a season with a sub-4.00 ERA. He posted a 3.78 ERA in 2008 with the Cardinals.
On top of that, prior to 2011, Lohse had an 88-98 record with 4.79 ERA. His tenure in the AL was very unsuccessful.
In six seasons with the Twins from 2001 to 2006, his lowest ERA was 4.23, and his highest ERA was 7.07.
All those numbers previously listed have "mediocre" written all over them.
R.A. Dickey rectified his career too, and he turned it on at 35 years old with the Mets. However, the 38-year-old 2012 NL Cy Young has a unique and dominant strikeout pitch—the knuckleball.
Unlike Dickey, Lohse does not strike out many batters. Last year, he posted a career-high 143 strikeouts, but that was good for just a 6.1 K/9. The 34-year-old has a career 5.6 K/9.
Lohse certainly improved his stock for an expensive deal by posting back-to-back career years in the final two years of his contract.
However, the Red Sox should not take an expensive gamble with the late-blossoming pitcher.
Conclusion: The Cons Outweigh the Pros in Signing Kyle Lohse
Kyle Lohse could be a great addition given his recent success. He’s coming off two great seasons and would be a short-term acquisition.
However, the cost for Lohse is very high.
The Red Sox would have to pay him approximately $15 million per year and give up a draft pick.
More importantly, the starting rotation is already filled out with five pitchers. It might not be the best starting rotation, but if most of the pitchers bounce back, it should not be as bad as it was in 2012.
Adding Lohse could provide insurance barring an injury or a pitcher underperforming. Adding Lohse could also be an immediate burden given his lack of AL success.
Lohse is a flashy free agent, but the Red Sox should keep the money, save their draft pick and stick with the five starting pitchers they have.
Do you think the Red Sox should give up a draft pick and sign Kyle Lohse? Feel free to comment below.