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Lohse Finally Gets A Bite

One week before Opening Day, the Milwaukee Brewers pick up the remaining "premium" free agent. Can Kyle Lohse have the impact expected of a pitcher at that cost?

Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

Well, #DontSignLohse made a valiant effort. It took until March 25, but Kyle Lohse has signed a multi-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. At three years and 33 million dollars, this is not a budget-breaking deal, but it makes him one of the highest-paid players on the club. It's a curious decision, but there is a shred of reason for this signing.

Salary

At $11M a year, Lohse only needs to put up about 2 WAR a season to fulfill market value. Using both fWAR and rWAR, he has reached that mark the past two years. He is 34 years old, so the aging curve is bound to strike soon, possibly similar to Randy Wolf's time in Milwaukee.

His ERA is unlikely to remain so far below his peripherals, especially due to his new home ballpark. According to FanGraphs, St. Louis had a HR park factor of 91, while StatCorner was fairly close to that. Milwaukee has a 103 HR park factor on FanGraphs, but a big 136 on StatCorner. Either way, Miller Park is a much more HR-friendly park, which does not bode well for the flyball-heavy Lohse. His HR/FB percentages of 7.2% and 8.2% the past two seasons are almost assured to rise back into double digits, leaving him near average overall.

Draft Pick

Along with the contract, the Brewers gave up the 17th overall pick in this year's draft. In years past, pick #17 hasn't been the greatest, as Roy Halladay is the only HOF-caliber player in the 48 years. For every Cole Hamels or Gary Matthews Sr., there is a Rick Asadoorian and Scott Scudder. The Brewers farm system is not tremendously strong, especially on the position player side, so this first round pick could have been useful for future development, but not having it isn't a killer.

Supporting Cast

This is the major reason why Lohse is a Brewer. Yovani Gallardo is the ace, but there is little experience behind him. Marco Estrada is a 29-year-old flyball pitcher who posted a tremendous (K-BB)% last season. After looking at his plate discipline numbers, that rate looks to be dropping in his second season as a starter. Mike Fiers is two years younger, but in a very similar situation as far as experience and performance goes.

After those three, there are a lot of questions. Chris Narveson is coming off of shoulder surgery, Mark Rogers has not shown his big velocity or results so far, and Wily Peralta has been subpar. It seemed pretty clear that the Brewers were not confident that two of those three could do an adequate job in the rotation, which is why Lohse is on board. The strong lineup warrants the ability to contend, so they didn't want to squander another chance at the playoffs.

Conclusion

This deal really seems to look like Randy Wolf Part II, an aging mediocre pitcher who had a suppressed ERA on his contract year. Wolf was let go before his contract ran out, only fulfilling about half the production that Milwaukee paid for. With Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart, and other good role players, they have the offense and defense to contend, so they reached a bit to get Lohse, hoping for one more October run. The odds are against them, but there have been success stories with much longer odds, and this move won't debilitate the franchise for years to come.