Everyone says you can never have too much starting pitching. Well, almost everyone. My six-week old son doesn't say that because he can't talk and also has a tiny, stupid brain. Babies are very stupid, so I'll amend that first sentence to everyone who knows about baseball and has a fully developed brain says you can never have too much starting pitching.
To that point I have a proposal that I have pitched before: the Angels should sign Kyle Lohse, like right now.
Three months ago when free agency opened, I would've gone on an extended rant against the idea of the Halos even thinking about possibly showing a modicum of passing interest in Lohse. He's old. He's overrated. He's going to get wildly overpaid.
One of those things is definitely still true. Another might be and one definitely is now false. At 34, Lohse is and will remain old in relative baseball terms. His 2.86 ERA last season certainly still seems to be way over his head, but given that Lohse has received almost no interest on the free agent market, it is hard to say that he is overrated. If he ever was overrated, everyone making free agent decisions in MLB seems to now be on to him. Therefore, he is no longer overrated. As a side effect of that, the four-year, $60+ million he was believed to be seeking was never actually an option. In fact, if you believe the rumors, GMs across the league barely even seem to know that he exists anymore. That, my friends, is an opportunity.
Now that training camp has opened, Lohse and his
demon agent Scott Boras are beyond the point of "waiting out the market." The market is closed. This is the time for desperation, or at least desperation relative to the billion dollar industry that is baseball. Boras has shown no reluctance in the past to sign a client to a one-year "pillow contract." In this case, that would mean Lohse joining a team for "only" $13 million, give or take. However, at his age, I'm not sure he wouldn't want to try and cash in a little more since it is doubtful the market for him will somehow be more robust at age 35. This is where I think the Angels can fit in.
"Fit?" you say. Yes, I do. Sure the Angels have a full rotation and then some, which is why I started this post with the comment about never having too much starting pitching, especially when much of that starting pitching is league average at best. In Lohse, the Halos have a shot at landing a guy who could be better than league average. Even if he declines away from the tutelage of Dave Duncan and the pitcher-friendly National League, Lohse is certainly better than Joe Blanton. He's probably better than Jason Vargas. There's a chance he's better than Tommy Hanson too, though that is more a comment on Hanson than Lohse.
The point is that Lohse would be a sure upgrade in the rotation and that is not something one typically finds in mid-February, much less finds it for a discount. That discount would likely mean the Halos landing Lohse for a two-year deal around $22 million. Given the level of interest that Kyle has received, and by "received" I mean not received, this off-season, a two-year deal could look like a blessing, even if it is a few million less in annual average value than he was hoping for. That's a nice value for the Angels if Lohse can continue to be a 3+ win pitcher like he was last season. If he regresses to more of a 2.5 win pitcher, then it is still right on in terms of price all while being of minimal risk as it would be just a two-year commitment.
Sure, the Angels say they are done spending, but we all know that is never really true. They have the money somewhere if they need it. We also know they aren't shy about forfeiting draft picks, and signing Lohse would require the Angels to give up their second-rounder, which is another discount of sorts since other teams would have to fork over their first-rounder but the Halos already did that for Hamilton.
It would mean moving Joe Blanton to the bullpen, where he doesn't seem like he'd be very effective nor a good investment, but that is the price of doing business here. Besides, there is a decent chance he'll end up back in the rotation when someone inevitably gets hurt, so he actually is more of an expensive insurance policy. That is the kind of luxury most teams cannot afford, but the Angels can.
For a team that is "all in" in their pursuit of a World Series, this strikes me as too good of a deal to pass up, especially since it addresses the one area of their team that sticks out as a glaring weakness. Will they do it? All indications suggest they aren't even considering it, but with Jerry Dipoto involved, I wouldn't rule it out until Lohse actually inks with another team. Even then, I might still think there is a chance.
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@Squidwai I wouldn't classify the Blanton signing as brutal, but definitely could've gotten a better deal if he waited out the market more.