Should the Texas Rangers sign free-agent right-hander Kyle Lohse?
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Simple question. Complicated answer.
The Rangers are kicking around the idea of adding Lohse, as first reported Sunday by Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Those discussions are almost certain to grow more serious now that the team has lost left-hander Martin Perez, who suffered a broken bone in his forearm after getting struck by a line drive Sunday and will not throw for four weeks.
Still, the Rangers have a number of reservations about Lohse, according to major league sources:
• Draft-pick compensation. The Rangers are in a better position than most clubs to sacrifice their first-rounder for Lohse — they hold the 24th-overall pick, but also gained the 31st choice when they lost outfielder Josh Hamilton to the Los Angeles Angels in free agency.
Further rationalization, if the Rangers choose to use it: The team is loaded with prospects in the low minors, theoretically making it easier to lose a high pick for Lohse.
The flip side: The Rangers’ draft — and draft pool — would be that much stronger if they kept the 24th pick. And the new spending caps on amateur talent both domestically and internationally make it more difficult for teams to maintain well-stocked systems.
• Length of contract. The Rangers are reluctant to give Lohse, 34, a deal of three or more years. But they also are reluctant to lose their first-rounder for a short-term deal.
Would a trade of the 24th pick and corresponding slot money make sense for two years of Lohse at the right price? Perhaps. But keep in mind that Lohse rejected a one-year, $13.3 million offer from the Cardinals. He and his agent, Scott Boras, are highly unlikely to accept a deal of say, two years, $15 million — even at this late date.
• The calendar. Lohse had one of his better seasons after signing a one-year, $4.25 million free-agent contract with the Cardinals on March 13, 2008. But that was five years ago. Could he get into shape as quickly again?
Part of the logic for the Rangers signing Lohse would be to get off to a quick start. The team might need the help — Perez likely will be out until May, and righty Alexi Ogando thus far is struggling to make adjustments as he transitions to the rotation. However, if the Lohse negotiations drag into mid-March, club officials might wonder if the 12-year veteran will be as effective early in the season as they want him to be.
• The return of Colby Lewis. The Rangers expect Lewis to return from flexor tendon surgery as early as May. In theory, that could create a surplus in the rotation, particularly if Lohse is in the mix.
Such problems usually work themselves out, but the Rangers have recent experience with a situation that did not — righty Roy Oswalt, who signed a one-year, $5 million free-agent contract with the team last May 29, bristled when later asked to pitch in relief.
• Hitter-friendly park, hitter-friendly league. Lohse went 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA the past two seasons for the Cardinals, but those numbers surely would inflate if he pitched at the Ballpark in Arlington against predominantly AL competition.
Lohse’s sinker and pitching savvy should enable him to make an easier transition than most. Still, his sinker isn’t a power sinker, and he actually ranked only 63rd in groundball percentage last season among the 88 major league pitchers who worked at least 162 innings.
So, should the Rangers sign Lohse?
Depends upon how badly club officials think they need another starter. Depends upon how they view Lohse. Depends upon his price.