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Is Lohse’s delay the system or a price-demand mismatch?

Yes, free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse is still unsigned. So are fellow Scott Boras clients Rafael Soriano and Michael Bourn. If we believe some commentary out there, the three are unfortunate victims of an MLB compensation system gone awry.

I am not feeling it.

These three players made their own beds. They are part of a group of nine free agents who were eligible to receive qualifying offers by their current clubs – a one-year guaranteed contract for 2013 for $13.3 million.

Each of the nine was extended the offer – and they all turned it down. That was a choice they made. Perhaps some of the three may now wish they had a “do over.”

The other six already have homes for next season. Three signed with new teams and three returned to their former clubs.

Only the trio of Boras clients remain on the market. Do you think that is coincidence? Has the super-agent not had the last free agents to sign before?

Potential signing clubs may be reluctant to lose the early draft pick and associated slot spending tied to the signing of one of these free agents. They may feel the Boras clients are overpriced.

Either way, by its inaction, the market is stating the players’ perceived value is not worth what a signing team would have to give up by adding them.

The system is working just fine for the other six.

Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton and Nick Swisher were in the exact same boat as the Boras three but landed substantial long-term deals with new teams. The Angels, Braves and Indians were willing to take the compensation hit and pay the necessary salaries to add these premium players on multi-year contracts.

Then there is David Ortiz, Adam LaRoche and Hiroki Kuroda. They were also in that population of nine and secured new deals to return to their same teams. Two of the three received raises, with the 37-year-old end-of-career Ortiz taking a small salary cut of $750K on a base of $14.75 million.

Only LaRoche settled for less than $13.3 million in 2013, but the career journeyman first baseman came out just fine. He secured a two-year deal worth $24 million that could evolve into $37 million if the third-year option is picked up.

What makes Boras’ final three players different is that their current teams have apparently moved on after seeing their $13.3 million offers rejected.

Those Cardinals fans holding out faint hope that Lohse might return to St. Louis were probably sent into deep depression by general manager John Mozeliak’s Friday comments on KFNS radio.

“It would be very difficult given what we have in our rotation right now, and also what we have in our bullpen that’s capable of pitching in the rotation,” the GM said.

It is too early to draw firm conclusions as to whether or not the system is flawed enough that change is required. There is still time for the Boras trio to find homes for next season.

The agent isn’t concerned, at least on the outside, telling ESPN this:

“People call me all the time and say, ‘Man, your players aren’t signed yet,'” Boras said. “Well, it doesn’t really matter what time dinner is when you’re the steak.”

Even if so, the sizzle from those steaks has not been all that enticing to date. The same ESPN article, written by Jerry Crasnick, does outline a number of potential homes for each of the unsigned Boras clients.

If this doesn’t end well for the three, how much of the problem should be blamed on the system and how much of their problem is due to a mismatch between their asking price and their perceived market value?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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24 Responses to “Is Lohse’s delay the system or a price-demand mismatch?”

  1. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Where is the cleverness in your article Brian? ………… The new draft rules were quite a coup for the owners………. Where was the Union? …….. Heard from them?…… No you haven’t…… you think the owners want a collusion grievance filed on this one?………… this will all go away…….. Texas is just talking……..Angels and SD are needing……….. Dodgers are in control……. as soon as someone fires, it will go quickly. Its all Fox money at this point……….. they are stressing Boras ……….. Lohse or Borne could break all this up by just firing Scotty ………. if Fox is herding players ……….. they will obviously need to be paid at some point……… that’s the likely scenario ……… Boras isn’t an idiot….News Corp just bought 49% of YES…… they will own at least that much of NESN next year…… the Yankee’s acting like a beat dog should draw at least a look…….. Robinson Cano /Boras next year is likely the root of this maneuver in the first place…….

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    Last winter, Boras waited until January 26 to agree to sign Cecil Fielder up with the Tigers. Fielder landed a 9 year deal, for more than $200MM bucks.

    Boras seems to like to wait. He is in no rush.

    Lohse will collect a good deal. I will guess 3 years at $13MM/yr with the Rangers.

    • Nutlaw says:

      I hope that Lohse will come out alright. You’ll recall that when he first joined the Cardinals, Boras waited far too long and got him saddled with a well below market deal.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        The financial issues a very complex in baseball these days Nut……… Kyle likely received a subsidy for his lost income in 2008…….. News Corp has become very active in baseball lately………..they are seriously “working” with some clubs to be better citizens…………..Can you imagine the tower of strength that is YES, giving up the fight to avoid partial consumptions by the Blob……… and then the Yanks suddenly discovering that Arod was fully covered by an insurance policy………his entire legacy and investment suspended in time……to be used where it could be of some use…….and the way it was done, giving Arod no alternatives……..least he retire………. its like a miracle that the unfinished Dodger deal used the promise of money to come to bail out the RedSox…………during their negotiations with News Corp concerning NESN…….. the only reason that got held up was the Yanks moved first……
        No one wants to go to NY to pitch………they going to herd Lohse into a 17m dollar deal there? Or, the Angels and the Dodgers figuring something out ………… or the Brewers hoping it comes their way………. the only team that’s not involved is SLC ….. SD has the huge park……Fox as a partner….why not there?………. Somebody doesn’t want the Padres contesting the Dodgers and the Giants?…………… Its not about baseball…..its about negotiating positions with the Cable companies……..

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Nutlaw, you are a nice guy to be on Lohse’s side. Kyle got about $47MM out of the Cards, over the 5 years. Hes a rich man already.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    Lohse reminds me of Greg Maddux.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Well, let’s see. They have both been major league pitchers and their first names have four letters.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Lohse won 16 last year, while Maddux had 9 years of winning 14 to 16 games. Both take the ball and eat innings, year after year. Lohse had an injury during 2009/10, because he got hit by a pitch, not from throwing; hes durable. Neither had a great fastball, but know how to pitch.

        Maddux was a cigarette addict.

        • Brian Walton says:

          That is just goofy. I started to type a serious rebuttal but then decided not to bother.

        • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

          Your right Jumbo ……… Kyle isn’t finished yet ……. and he doesn’t smoke those cigarette’s…..

        • Nutlaw says:

          Okay. I was going to say that both are strong control pitchers. Maddux skewed slightly lower in walk rate and strikeout rate than Lohse, but they clearly have some similarity in approach.

        • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

          Fastball isn’t that bad Jumbo…… He seemed to be able to hit 92 without much of a problem. ………. Truth be known, he could still touch 94 ……….. and there in lies the problem/issue…….. the break in symmetry that happens with the extra effort in his delivery, is a huge tell/read for the hitter………. even if it’s only done to decoy, it still gives the hitter a reference point, even if it is still somewhat illusory … if a hitter even thinks he has a clue …… he might start guessing right …….. Kyle learned to stay withing the field relationship of the variable speed fastball and the change up…..and a very uniform delivery with the slider………..that creates control……its what control is……… easily the greatest practitioner of that is Mariano Rivera….. they all look the same, and yet they never are ………..

          • blingboy says:

            You’re talking about the work of Dave Duncan, Westy.

            Kyle’s rich enough to not work unless he likes the gig and the pay. He is selling something that is in demand. Perfect client for Scotty.

            • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

              he isn’t being squeezed BB……..he is being herded……….. it might be a good thing in the end….. If it doesn’t go well in Boston…….he just takes the deal to LA or SD at the break…….. might even be fun to watch….him being a FoX “shark” property……….. I’m reviewing the season……. I’m watching Dodgers / Cards in late July……. Beltran is still being held captive at clean up………… Cards are sucking………

              • blingboy says:

                Wanted to mention that Colby avoided arb, $4.675M.

                • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

                  He deserves a payday………… I’m watching Rockies / Cards in Denver……. MH is a different player when he goes up there. 1st inning Francis hangs a 70mph breaking pitch/center cut to Beltran….. Carlos swang so hard…the airbags in his cup went off and nearly crippled him……..ball came down in Wyoming….. 4 zip…………..

                  • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

                    Classic Cards game here………Holiday takes out Ottovino in the 7th…then Freese gets a dream pitch and hits it 40 rows back in dead center………….cruuusshhed it……….. fans weren’t diving for the ball…they were diving for cover…..

                    • blingboy says:

                      Just stop it Westy. Its 18 degrees here, everything gray and frosted over. My dog’s baseball is frozen to the ground. I try watching stuff on MLB network, but it just makes it worse.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            I have not heard of Lohse smoking tobacco. If he is not a smoker, Kyle would offer a bit more upstanding public image and role model than Greg Maddux. Similar pitchers, but Lohse would be a better subject for a portait by the great Norman Rockwell.

  4. blingboy says:

    Soriano’s deal might be the model that works for Lohse. Big AAV, big chunk deferred, two years with a big AAV option that vests with two years of health and production. The possible complication is that the Nats gave up the 29th overall pick whereas most teams would have to give up something more valuable.

  5. CariocaCardinal says:

    For teams worried about the draft pick, a longer deal would seemingly be a better deal. The Nats gave up a draft pick for 2 years of player use. A draft pick for 3-4 years of player use is better value.

    But not every team would give up a higher draft pick. Many teams (bottom 15?) dont give up their #1 pick.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I think the top 10 picks are protected. Then there are the teams signing multiple players, in which case they’d lose only a second-rounder the second time. You can bet Boras is already working on that with the Nationals.

    • blingboy says:

      “The Nats gave up a draft pick for 2 years of player use. A draft pick for 3-4 years of player use is better value.”

      But on the other hand, teams like to stay short term with pitchers, if they can, due to risk of injury.

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