The Minnesota Twins signed Mike Pelfrey. Well, they didn't sign him so much as activate the beacon that called him home to where he belonged in the first place. The Twins have been scheming ways to get him since Pelfrey appeared on the CBS Pitch To Contact Christmas Special three years ago. Finally they got their man.
Where did this strategy come from? The Twins used to have Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano, two of the strike-outingest pitchers in the land. The spiritual godfather was probably Brad Radke, who pitched 12 mostly strikeout-free years with the Twins. But if there's a Mt. Rushmore of The Twins' Way, Kyle Lohse would probably be on it. He didn't have the longevity of Radke, but he was the one the Twins weaponized and sent out into the world.
He pitched poorly in his last half-season with the Twins, but after kicking around with the Reds and Phillies for a bit, he turned into something of a generic innings-eater -- good enough to be in major-league rotations, not good enough to think about the second he left the mound. He went to the Cardinals and got a little better, because that's what the Cardinals do, but for a while he was still just Kyle Lohse. No more, no less.
Since the start of 2011, Lohse is 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA.
In that stretch, he's thrown 399 innings, which isn't exactly workhorse-like, but still a testament to his newfound durability and reliability. His ERA during that time is better than those of CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, and James Shields. His winning percentage is better than all but three pitchers -- better than Cole Hamels and Matt Cain, David Price and Clayton Kershaw.
Now, you know there are better stats with which to evaluate a pitcher. And, of course, so does every GM in the game. We hope. But no matter how much attention they pay to fielding-independent stats or advanced metrics, they still grew up with the stats on the backs of baseball cards. And that 30-11, 3.11 ERA combo tickles their subconscious. Even as they know that Kyle Lohse probably isn't this good, they'll take an extended glance at him for reasons they can't explain in words. They'll just think, "What if … what if …"
Or they might think, "Three years for Kyle Lohse? Hahaha, no."
This is almost the toughest contract to peg on the market. Jim Bowden thinks he'll get three years, $39 million, but the rich teams are mostly set with their pitching. The Dodgers have dozens of pitchers, and the Yankees spent their money on bringing their own free agents back. The Rangers might have a rotation spot to fill, but they are also likely to be wary of Lohse pitching in Arlington, as well they should. The Pirates and Royals might have some interest, but they probably don't have the scratch. Going down the list of all 30 teams, it's easy to make excuses why every team isn't interested.
Is there a favorite to sign Lohse? Probably not. There are a lot of teams who would love to have Lohse, but not for more than $10 million per year, and not for more than a year or two. So I'll cheat and name two favorites, based on set conditions:
If the market for Lohse is hot enough that he'll get a three-year deal, it would need to be a team that can play a little loose with the checkbook. A Lohse deal would allow the Angels to trade either Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos for prospects instead of a starting pitcher, with Lohse being better than most of the trade options out there. The Angels would know that 2015 would probably be a mess, but I have a sneaking suspicion they don't really care too much about the back-ends of multi-year deals right now.
But if the market is a little soft for Lohse, and if there isn't a team willing to go for three years, I can see the Cardinals jumping back in. They liked him enough to make the qualifying offer for him, at least, risking him accepting what would be close to a $12 million deal. Jaime Garcia's shoulder iffiness has to scare them a bit, and Lance Lynn's stuff played much better in the bullpen last season. Plus, it seems like they know how to use Lohse, as if they have a system. I'd guess that Lohse feels comfortable with the folks who helped him turn his career around.
The Indians make sense here, but I'll go with a MYSTERY TEAM. Hear me out.
The A's have a cornucopia of pitchers. Really, what they did last year with rookies filling in for injured pitchers was amazing. Their rotation is full, and they still have Travis Blackley and Brad Peacock in a glass case. They don't need Lohse.
But Lohse would be a great fit for that park, and for the defense the A's are putting together. And the A's also need a shortstop, which the Indians would be willing to provide in exchange for young pitching. Which, again, the A's have all over the place. I don't know exactly what the Indians would want for Asdrubal Cabrera because I'm horrible at fake trades, but there would have to be a fit somewhere between the A's and Indians, considering the needs and excess parts of both clubs.
You're laughing. I deserve that. But you would have laughed at Yoenis Cepedes going to the A's, too. They kind of relish being the mystery team.
Cardinals, two years, $25 million. That would mean there wasn't a lot of excitement about this Lohse cat, and that he'll get Jake Westbrook money for a shorter deal. Typing that out makes me doubt it, but then when I type out "R.A. Dickey money", it seems more reasonable again.