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Free-agent Lohse getting antsy?

Ken Rosenthal previews the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ken Rosenthal previews the St. Louis Cardinals.
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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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FORT MYERS, FLA.

With the Kyle Lohse mystery still unsolved, people are left to debate the pitcher's state of mind.

Two major-league sources told me Sunday that the free-agent right-hander is getting “antsy.”

“Why wouldn’t he be?” one friend of Lohse’s said.

But after I posted the original version of this column, former major-league pitcher and ESPN Baseball Tonight analyst Mark Mulder tweeted, “I think @Ken_Rosenthal got some bad info from a ‘close’ friend of Lohse. He is anything but ‘antsy’ right now. #howwouldIknow.”

Mulder might know because he and Lohse were teammates with the Cardinals in 2008. But Mulder did not say whether Lohse is “anything but antsy” because he is close to signing with a club, or because he is content to remain on the open market.

In any case, Opening Day is two weeks from Monday. Lohse, 34, is still not in a major-league camp. And his previous team, the St. Louis Cardinals, might be getting antsy, even if Lohse is not.

The Cardinals made Lohse a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer to ensure that they received draft-pick compensation once he signed with another club.

That compensation, however, will disappear if Lohse waits until after the draft - which takes place from June 6 to 8 - to reach agreement with his next team.

Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras, has downplayed that possibility, saying that he is talking with clubs that are interested in his client. But Lohse has been a free agent for 4½ months. And the draft is only about 2½ months away.

If Lohse held out until after the draft, the Cardinals would lose not just a pick between the first and second rounds, but also the accompanying pool money. Lohse would bring the Cardinals the No. 29 selection, which last year was valued at $1.625 million. Additional pool money allows teams greater flexibility when signing their picks.

The Cardinals knew they were taking a risk when they made Lohse a qualifying offer, knowing he might accept. But they probably never imagined not getting the reward.

Again, it’s all hypothetical — Lohse could sign with a club tomorrow, and this discussion would be over. But if the new draft-pick compensation rules hurt a team as well as a player, perhaps Major League Baseball would be more inclined to allow sign-and-trades in the future.

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Sign-and-trades would enable players and teams to circumvent the rules, enabling free agents to sign with clubs willing to lose a draft choice, then get traded to clubs that are not.

The free agent would stand a better chance of getting market value. His previous team would get a pick. His new team would keep its pick. And the team that brokers the trade would receive appropriate talent in return.

Everyone would benefit — everyone, that is, except management as a whole, which believes it already granted significant concessions to the players’ union by reducing the number of free agents subject to compensation in the new collective-bargaining agreement.

Well, the system hasn’t worked exactly as intended. And Michael Weiner, the head of the union, has expressed concern over the impact of qualifying offers on Lohse, first baseman Adam LaRoche and outfielder Michael Bourn.

Come to think of it, this discussion isn’t over yet.

 

ANOTHER OUTFIELDER FOR ROYALS?

 

The Royals would like to add a left-handed-hitting outfielder who could spell Jeff Francoeur against tough righties, according to major league sources. If that outfielder could play center and serve as protection for the oft-injured Lorenzo Cain, all the better.

Francoeur has a career .820 OPS against left-handers but only a .702 OPS against righties. Jarrod Dyson is a left-handed hitter, but not strong enough offensively to fill the role the Royals envision.

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The Royals, who considered Brennan Boesch before he signed with the Yankees, are not optimistic about finding the player they want before Opening Day.

 

LATEST ON PORCELLO

 

The Rangers are just one of the clubs talking to the Tigers about right-hander Rick Porcello. The Padres also are interested in Porcello, but not at the price of one of their top relievers, major league sources say.

Porcello, 24, remains promising but isn’t an easy sell — he’s earning $5.1 million this season, and his ERA-plus the past three seasons is 88. The average ERA-plus — ERA adjusted to league and ballpark — is 100.

Rival executives also see Porcello as a fit for the Angels, and for that matter, Lohse could be, too. But the Angels, at least for now, appear committed to their five starters, the least expensive of whom — right-hander Tommy Hanson — is earning $3.725 million.

The Angels are more focused on adding a backup catcher and perhaps another reliever, sources say.

 

AND ELSEWHERE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

 

The Dodgers still are likely to trade either right-hander Aaron Harang or lefty Chris Capuano, both of whom have been tracked by four teams all spring, sources say.

The Orioles and Brewers are among the teams that have scouted Harang, according to MLB.com. For what it’s worth, neither Harang nor Capuano has had good results this spring.

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The Dodgers entered camp with eight starting pitchers, and at least one must go. While righty Chad Billingsley dealt with a groin issue last week and lefty Ted Lilly has thrown only 4 2/3 innings, the rotation is mostly in decent shape.

Righty Zack Greinke, recovering from right elbow soreness, threw 38 pitches in a bullpen session Sunday, and the Dodgers expect him back the first week of the season.

Meanwhile, rookie lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu made his third straight impressive appearance Sunday, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings against the Brewers and retiring the last 11 hitters he faced.

 

A CONCERN FOR THE GIANTS?

 

One scout in Arizona said he is worried about the Giants’ outfield, and not just the projected tandem of Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres in left.

The scout cited center fielder Angel Pagan’s history of injuries — perhaps unfairly, considering that Pagan has played in 150 or more games in two of the past three seasons.

Then there is right fielder Hunter Pence.

“He’s flighty, streaky, he has poor mechanics,” the scout said. “He starts chasing breaking balls and can’t slow himself down. He gets faster. He tries to hurry his way out of slumps, instead of backing off a little bit. He loses balance at the plate.”

It’s a big year for Pence, who is eligible for free agency. His OPS-pluses the past four seasons: 116, 112, 139, 103.

 

HERE COMES COBB

 

High praise: A scout says he is higher on Rays right-hander Alex Cobb than he is on Jeremy Hellickson, the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year.

Reason? Cobb, the scout says, has better overall stuff.

Hellickson has a 3.06 ERA in 402 1/3 career innings, Cobb a 3.86 ERA in 189 innings. Both are 25.

Speaking of the Rays, their starting-pitching depth remains strong even after trading right-handers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals, in part because righty Jake Odorizzi and lefty Mike Montgomery were among the players they received in return.

One scout cracks that the Rays’ Triple-A rotation — Odorizzi, Montgomery, righty Chris Archer, lefty Alex Torres and righty Alex Colome — might be better than the Astros’ major league group.

 

HERE COMES DOOLITTLE

 

More high praise: Athletics left-hander Sean Doolittle might be emerging as a better version of the White Sox’s Matt Thornton, one scout said.

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Doolittle, a former first baseman who converted to pitching full time only last season, didn’t throw quite as hard as Thornton in 2012 — his average fastball was 93.6 mph, compared to 95 for Thornton, according to Fangraphs.com.

The scout, however, said Doolittle has a better breaking ball than Thornton and better command.

“Being a former position player allowed him to make a smooth transition to pitching as far as being able to repeat his delivery,” the scout said.

 

THE ATHLETICS: AN EVOLVING MIX

 

The Athletics, one scout said, are an “odd” team — deep in outfielders, most of whom can play all three positions, yet unsettled in their middle infield.

Jed Lowrie is virtually certain to play every day — shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima has been unimpressive, according to scouts, as have the two second-base candidates, Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks.

Sizemore, who missed all of last season after tearing his left ACL, might just be getting acclimated to playing again — he entered Sunday batting .148 with a .537 OPS in 35 plate appearances on the spring.

 

LOOK OUT FOR MILLER

 

Some of the new Red Sox are raving about left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, who is throwing in the high 90s and commanding his slider — all with his usual deception.

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Catcher David Ross said he took one look at Miller in a batting-practice session early in camp and thought, “I’ve got to face this guy already?”

Miller, due to injuries to Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales, likely will open the season as the Red Sox’s sole left-handed reliever.

 

BACKUP CATCHER FEVER

 

The scramble for backup catchers is on, and the NationalsChris Snyder is almost certain to be moved before Opening Day, sources say.

Snyder, signed to a minor league contract, won’t make the major league team ahead of Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki. The Nats also have two catchers they like at Triple A, Jhonatan Solano and Carlos Maldonado, and another at Double A, Sandy Leon.

The Blue Jays are another team with a potential surplus, with Henry Blanco and Josh Thole competing to back up J.P. Arencibia.

Thole, however, can be sent to the minors; he has options remaining.

 

AROUND THE HORN

 

* The Cardinals’ search for a shortstop currently appears dormant, but rival executives fully expect St. Louis to address the position before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, saying that Pete Kozma is not a full-season solution.

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* One rival executive makes this point about Reds left-hander Aroldis Chapman: If he opens the season as a starter, he can always return to the bullpen. If he opens as a reliever, it will be more difficult for him to move to the rotation.

* Right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, who is out of options, looks like a strong bet to be part of the Blue Jays’ Opening Day bullpen. The Jays acquired Jeffress from the Royals for cash considerations last Nov. 8. The Astros, who had interest in Jeffress after the Royals designated him for assignment, likely would claim him on waivers, a source said.

Tagged: Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, Tigers, Royals, Athletics, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Nationals, Cardinals, Giants, Rays, Kyle Lohse, Ted Lilly, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, Matt Thornton, Chris Snyder, Jeff Francoeur, Angel Pagan, Andrew Miller, Jeremy Hellickson, Rick Porcello, Scott Sizemore, Jeremy Jeffress

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