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Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Hot Stove talk: Still want Kyle Lohse?

By Richard Durrett

We talked about Kyle Lohse a month ago, noting that he was one of the top starting pitchers on the market outside of Zack Greinke.

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Well, Lohse is still out there.

ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick just wrote about Scott Boras' clients, including Lohse, and noted that the Rangers could still use a starter. The question is whether Lohse fits the bill.

As with most things, cost -- money and draft picks -- will play a part in that decision. First, Lohse was offered a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer by the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason, so it would cost a draft pick (and the decrease in pool money) to sign him. Second, Boras is probably seeking a lengthy, multi-year deal.

The Rangers have Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando in rotation spots right now. Texas has stayed in contact with Boras and they have a need for one more starter. Lohse, 34, is coming off a 16-3 season with a 2.86 ERA in 33 starts for the Cardinals in 2012. He had 143 strikeouts and 38 walks. The numbers are solid.

Yes, he didn't do well in the American League at the beginning of his career with the Minnesota Twins. He had a 4.88 ERA and 51-57 record in 152 starts (172 games) in that span of nearly six seasons (he was traded to Cincinnati at the deadline in 2006). But Lohse has been in the National League since that trade and has a 4.07 ERA in 179 starts.

Lohse's numbers in the last four years are better. He's 55-35 with a 3.90 ERA with the Cardinals with 504 strikeouts and 200 walks. He relies more on his sinker now but still induces plenty of fly balls. As Crasnick points out, Ryan Dempster had a similar resume and that didn't turn out as well as the Rangers had hoped.

The reality is the Rangers could still use depth in the rotation. Perhaps Martin Perez or Justin Grimm or Robbie Ross step up in the spring and seize that job. But even if they don't, this club will probably need them at some point in 2013.

Injuries happen (see Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz) and you have to have depth to cover that. If the Rangers could find a starter who gets that spot, the younger pitchers could be waiting to help when needed as an important insurance policy.

But you can't do that at an inflated cost. That's what this could come down to. Lohse waited late to sign in March and got a one-year deal from St. Louis and earned his big extension after that. At 34, he's looking to cash in now. But if the market doesn't bust loose, perhaps he could come in on a one- or two-year deal. The club must weigh losing that draft pick as well (which may explain why Lohse is still out there).

Again, as I've stressed all offseason, this club has been careful not to get into a long-term deal it isn't comfortable doing that could handcuff it down the road. Lohse can help this team and makes sense, but only at the right price. There may be better options at the trade deadline, not to mention the return of Lewis and Feliz.

What do you think of Lohse? Has your opinion of him changed since we last talked about him a week before Christmas?