Should the Philadelphia Phillies sign starting Pitcher Kyle Lohse to bolster their overall strength? Despite the offseason trades made by GM Ruben Amaro, on paper the Phillies offense fails to overwhelm. Now with the Delmon Young injury news the Phillies already weak outfield is even weaker.
The Phillies have the best 1-2-3 pitching combination in Major League Baseball with Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. In terms of overall pitching staff I believe that the Phillies 4th and 5th starters Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan are outmatched by the Washington Nationals front three of Steven Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmerman, followed by Dan Haren and Ross Detweiler.
The addition of Kyle Lohse would change that in an instant. I have not been silent in my protest to such a move, and rated him the second most likely starting pitcher to regress in 2013. Now I am fully prepared to eat crow and make a reasonable argument for retaining his services.
The case for Lohse presents itself when you look the offense, especially the outfield. Among the four remaining outfielders (Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, Laynce Nix, John Mayberry) not one of their wins above replacement in 2012 was impressive (-0.2, 0.5, 0.5, 0.4 respectively) and two of them MUST start, at least until May. Keep in mind Kyle Lohse’s WAR was 3.6. The fans already expect little consistency from this aging offense, another front line pitcher would take off even more pressure off them, and would make the long run scoring droughts seen in 2012 easier to ride out.
With another big pitcher a few thing happen to would make the Phils better. First the Phillies could move Kyle Kendrick into the bullpen as a spot starter, which is frankly the best place for him. It would give the Phillies the extra dimension that the Texas Rangers have with Alexi Ogando and the Atlanta Braves had with Kris Medlen before he established himself. Next it would take more of the load off of Roy Halladay, who showed some age last year, and would underline Lohse’s value if Halladay rebounds, providing a 4th All-Star caliber pitcher to an already stacked rotation.
The reasons I did not believe Lohse was a worthy candidate is because of his contract demands and that he comes with a compensatory draft pick attached. However, every day he remains unsigned during spring training Lohse’s agent loses leverage. I would try to sign Lohse to a two year deal at about $8-10 million per year, with a third year option. I still believe Lohse will regress going forward, but he is a ground ball pitcher, which is preferable for Citizens Bank Park. Plus, while I believe that he will regress I don’t think his numbers will drop so dramatically that signing him at a reasonable price is out of the question. The problem is the draft pick that would go to the St. Louis Cardinals , if they get him. Again, I believe if the Phillies get Lohse at the right price it is worth those compensations.
Sure, the Phillies already have $71 million sunk into the rotation, but Lohse would be worth bringing that number up to close to $80M, for flexibility and longevity. Remember, Halladay could likely be gone after this season, and Lohse would help the Phillies transition beyond 2013. If the Phils decline their option on Roy Halladay after the season he could come back at a discounted rate. He has recently stated that he wants to stay with the Phillies for the rest of his career, and has proven himself above lengthy contract squabbles in the past.
The combination of the Phillies aging offense, weakness at outfield, aging superstars and position as a big money team make adequate conditions to signing the increasingly affordable Lohse.