Full squads reported on Friday, yet RHP Kyle Lohse still has not signed. It is unknown what teams are in on the Scott Boras client at this point. Lohse declined the qualifying offer he received from the St. Louis Cardinals and is therefore linked to draft pick compensation, which has been the main snag in any negotiations the right-hander has had with teams.
There have been rumors that involve Lohse waiting to sign until after the Amateur Draft in June, no longer linking him to draft pick compensation. I see this as possible, but very unlikely.
With the absence of ace Chris Carpenter, Lohse proved himself to be a legitimate #1 starter last season for the St. Louis Cardinals, going 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 33 starts, posting a career high SO/BB rate of 3.76. Also, Lohse beat the Atlanta Braves in the inaugural Wild Card Playoff game.
Lohse would be a definite upgrade to a Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff that was mediocre in 2012, 3.86 team ERA, good for 13th in the MLB. I will give A.J. Burnett credit, he had a very good rebound season in 2012, going 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA in 31 starts, but if this Pirates team wants to break .500 for the first time in 20 years, they will need an upgrade.
RHP James McDonald has shown signs of greatness, but his inconsistencies have to led to 4.21 ERA in back-to-back seasons. LHP Wandy Rodriguez will pitch his first full season with the Pirates in 2013, after being sent from the Houston Astros at the trade deadline. Without veterans like Erik Bedard and Kevin Correia in the rotation this year, Jeff Locke and Jeff Karstens will be full-time starters, while top prospects’ Jameson Tallion and Gerrit Cole gain experience in the minor leagues.
Player development has work out moderately well for GM Neal Huntington, but occasionally you need to spend to win. The Pirates have some payroll flexibility heading into the 2013 season, with $56 million in contracts, $7 million less than last season. Lohse will probably being asking for around $15 million for one year, a deal which would be reasonable for the Pirates. Huntington, will need to act quickly because division rivals like the Milwaukee Brewers or St. Louis Cardinals could be in on Lohse.
The Pirates have most of the necessary pieces in place to make a playoff run in a NL Central division that could be wide open in 2013. They have a superstar in Andrew McCutchen that can carry the offense down the stretch and a good rotation of veteran pitchers that can log innings. The only missing piece is a #1 starter that can carry the team through August and September and into the playoffs. Kyle Lohse fills that role.