Monday, March 4, 2013

Weighing Kyle Lohse*

* Not literally. Although, according to Baseball Reference, he is approximately 210 pounds.

A pitcher who goes 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA, picks up enough Cy Young votes to finish 7th in the voting, and becomes a free agent could expect to get very rich. But Kyle Lohse is still looking for work with a month before the season starts. The reason is the compensation system in the CBA, which would cause any team which signs Lohse to lose a draft pick.A team picking in the top 10 of the draft, like the Astros, loses their second round pick. All others lose their first. Seems like teams are not willing to take that chance on Lohse. 

With that compensation system in mind, does it make sense for the Astros to pursue Lohse for a one or two year contract, with the understanding that they will trade him to a contender mid-season?  I have seen no report, speculation or rumor that this on the table, so this is more of a thought exercise. 

My first inclination is no way. The Astros rebuilding model is contingent on young talent, and losing a draft pick, along with the money that accompanies that pick, seems counterproductive. But we have also seen what Luhnow has done in trades, and if Lohse even comes close to pitching like he did last season, he could be a hot commodity for contending teams at the trade deadline. The question is, are the Astros likely to get more talent from their second round pick or prospects returned for Kyle Lohse?

Due to compensation round picks and competitive balance picks, the Astros second selection in the draft will be number 40. In 2012, with the 41st pick, the Astros got Lance McCullers. I love Lance McCullers, and many considered him a first round talent, who fell due to signability concerns. He was ranked the 50th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America. I think its fair to say that if the Astros could guarantee another McCullers in the second round, Lohse would not be worth it. But McCullers is the exception, rather than the rule. Scanning through the 40th picks in the draft over the past ten years or so, you don't see a lot of recognizable names. Huston Street has done well for himself in that slot, and the Royals don't seem to have given up on Luke Hochevar yet, but overall the 40th pick is more miss than hit. 

So could Luhnow do better with a trade? That depends on Lohse's performance, of course. While Lohse's ERA last year was a sparking 2.86, his FIP was over a half run higher at 3.51. Nearly every projection system  has Loshe regressing to a 3.50 era or higher, which is more consistent with Lohse's career performance than last year. Counting on Lohse repeating his 2012 season would not be wise.

Of course, a starting pitcher with 3.50 ERA has value, and could still be traded for a decent return. By comparison, last year, Wandy Rodriguez and Anibal Sanchez had ERA's between 3.50 and 4.00 and were traded for Robbie Grossman/Rudy Owens/Colton Cain and Rob Brantly/Brian Flynn/Jacob Turner respectively. Neither trade was a game changer, but both were good returns. Both Turner and Brantly contributed at the big league level last year, and Grossman appears to be knocking on the door for the Astros. The nature of trades versus the draft is the ability to get someone closer to the majors, which cuts down on the risk associated with the draft. 

Seems the like the second round pick has more risk, but the potential for higher upside, whereas a trade, if Lohse performs as expected, would be lower risk but lower reward. Of course, the loss of the draft allotment that accompanies the second round pick could also potentially hinder the Astros ability to sign other picks. My gut is still that its not worth it. I'd rather see if Luhnow can work his magic in the draft again than rely on Lohse's performance to maximize his return. But its a closer call than I first thought. What do you think?


ntxlfty said...

Not unless he apologizes for his vote in moving the Astros to the American League. Of course, if he did that, Crane wouldn't bring him on board. What a conundrum.

ntxlfty said...

I meant for the above to post on the Nolan Ryan story, obviously. I know, I know, I'm an idiot.

(Not Hank) Aaron said...

I was thinking that I had no idea Lohse had anything to do with the league switch. I was going to have to do some research.

ntxlfty said...

I'm going to start blaming everything on Kyle Lohse.

Nick said...

Does the team lose draft money as well? If they do there is only Kyle Lohse to blame.

Reuben said...

I want Lohse to apologize for Jeff Calhoun's performance in Game 6 of the '86 NLCS.

Anonymous said...

If Kyle Lohse signs with the Astros, the national media(and various internet jokesters) will start calling him Kyle Lose.

Terence said...

You can't use the #40 pick in previous years to judge the #40 pick now because we're in a new system. Under the old rules, a player like McCullers would never have been taken at #40. He either would have gone much earlier or much later. There will absolutely be a player like that available to the Astros this year at that spot and if they can take another #1 who is willing to sign several million under slot they can get another player of the McCullers or Ruiz type. I really wish the Astros had been able to trade for one of those competitive balance sandwich picks. It would have helped their draft $ and opportunity greatly.