Mark Attanasio saw the writing on the wall. His Milwaukee Brewers were not likely to compete for a division title, and possibly not even a wild-card berth, with the rotation the club was going to trot out to start the season.
It was something that wasn’t hard to see coming.
Kyle Lohse was available. The Brewers needed at least one more experienced starting pitcher in order to join the conversation to contend for the playoffs in the National League. Of course Attanasio was going to make the call. The only question was how much he was willing to pay and for how long?
Monday, we got the answer. Three-years, $33 million is the reported contract by FOXSports.com.
There’s no question Lohse, 34, will improve Milwaukee’s rotation in 2013 and possibly 2014, but how much is the ballclub better? The Brewers can now realistically fight for a spot in the playoffs, and who knows from there. They weren’t a favorite to make the World Series on Sunday and still won’t be when the ink dries on Lohse’s contract in Phoenix.
Attanasio, general manager Doug Melvin and the rest of the organization were asked about the starting rotation ad nauseam at Brewers On Deck. Over and over, each assured fans that the inexperienced arms of Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers were going to be just fine. All they had to do is duplicate their success from the final two months of the season over the course of seven months.
Spring training proved that may be difficult. Peralta’s ERA is 5.74. Fiers checks in at 6.98, while Rogers may have to begin the season on the disabled list due to a dead arm. I usually never even glance at spring training stats. To Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo, stats in February and March in meaningless games don’t matter. But to guys competing for jobs — like everyone in the rotation not named Gallardo was doing — they hold a bit more significance because they don’t have the luxury of working on certain things. Those guys have to perform, and they didn’t.
Is this a panic move? There’s probably a better way to put it. It’s more like a reactionary move. Attanasio and Melvin wanted to see their in-house options earn a spot, while keeping in contact with Lohse the whole time.
Let’s get this out of the way, too. Lohse is not Jeff Suppan, and he’s most certainly not Braden Looper. Lohse has been very good for the past two years, and has had success — when healthy — over the past five years with the Cardinals. That’s not to say this deal is risk-free. In fact, it’s far from it. There’s all sorts of risks that will be sure to have the Brewers’ fanbase divided on the move.
There’s always the group that believes the focus should be on a more sustainable future plan. That’s certainly understandable and it makes sense why those in this group are opposed to bringing in a 34-year-old right-hander that has had a few injury concerns on a three-year contract. The Brewers are going to be paying Lohse $11 million when he’s 37.
The Brewers were likely the first team to offer Lohse more than a two-year deal. Again, there’s a reason for that. Other teams were skeptical to add a third year, just like they were with Ryan Dempster. All the arguments against this signing are fair and make sense.
Sure, losing the No. 17 draft pick in this upcoming draft — no, the Cardinals don’t get that pick specifically, just one in the compensatory round — hurts. But it was apparent from Brewers On Deck that Attanasio wasn’t concerned about giving that away. His view is that the odds of someone picked in the middle of the first round impacting the club were far less than Lohse’s potential impact. That’s a fair way to look at it, but again, someone’s opinion on that statement depends on which side of the fence they sit on. Win now at all costs, or build for the future?
As an outsider, it’s easy to sit and say you’d build for the future with a plan that could have a greater chance at extended success because your money isn’t tied into the ballclub.
Attanasio wants to win. He loses the money if fans don’t show up at Miller Park. That’s why it’s no surprise he pulled the trigger on Kyle Lohse.
The Brewers are a better ballclub trotting Lohse out every five days. How much better is yet to be seen. But if Milwaukee was serious about putting a contending product on the field in 2013, this is a move it had to make.
Now the Brewers just have to hope the rewards outweigh the risks. Only time will tell.