Take note, people: I’m going to advocate signing a mediocre veteran rather than giving kids a shot. This is a monumental day in MSTI history!
Think about the Dodgers starting staff right now. Obviously, the top 4 of Penny/Lowe/Billingsley/Kuroda is pretty set. All winter, we figured that the 5th spot would go to whomever was the healthiest and/or most effective of Jason Schmidt, Esteban Loaiza, or perhaps Hong-Chih Kuo. If all went according to plan, we could even have Schmidt and Loaiza fight it out and have the loser be a great long man out of the pen until he was needed back in the rotation.
Except that Schmidt now will almost certainly not be ready by Opening Day, and no one can say when he will be or what he’ll be like when he comes back.
And that just as the sun rises in the East, Kuo is feeling discomfort in his repeatedly surgically-repaired left elbow. Besides, as much as I want to see him succeed, he’s got as many MLB wins as he does Tommy John surgeries. It’s insane to count on him for anything, ever.
And that Esteban Loaiza continues to be Esteban Loaiza – dig that 8.34 ERA as a Dodger last year!
Actually, as a 5th starter, you could do a whole lot worse than Loaiza. It’s not so much that I don’t even want to give him a shot, as much as it is the combination of handing him the 5th role and that it’s worrisome what’s behind him. I mean, who’s in camp right now that could step in if and when Loaiza fails? Beyond that, what if one of the top 4 goes down? It’s not unthinkable, given that Kuroda is 33 and is somewhat of an unknown quantity, and although we all expect huge things from Billingsley this year, he’s going to be asked to take a huge leap in innings and responsibility this season.
Right now, considering Schmidt and Kuo are hurt, the other starting options in camp consist of:
- Jason Johnson, who in 10 major league seasons is 43 games under .500 and has an ERA of 5.00 nearly on the nose. In 2006 he got shuttled between 3 teams and last year, he only made it into 7 games for Seibu in Japan. Now that’s confidence inspiring.
- Chan Ho Park, that’s right, the Chan Ho Park. How’d his 2007 go? Not bad, just a brutal 6-14, 5.99 ERA campaign. In the minor leagues. I’m not even brave enough to do the calculations to see what that would have equated to in the bigs.
- Eric Stults, I guess? Actually, I haven’t heard word one about him being in the mix this spring at all, so I’m not even sure if he’s being considered. Even so, his career MLB record of 2 wins and a 5.75 ERA is hardly the stuff legends, or even league-average pitchers, are made of.
- Clayton Kershaw/James McDonald: I would really, really like to not see either of these guys until September. Kershaw’s only turning 20 this week and has only a few starts at AA; please, please don’t rush him. Same for McDonald, who’s yet to taste AAA.
Point is, the Blue could certainly use another reliable (if nothing else) starter who’s had some big-league success to challenge Loaiza and/or replace any of the injured top 4. This is why the Joe Blanton rumors won’t seem to die, except that none of us want to use guys like Andy LaRoche to get him. So why not a veteran, league-average durable arm that will cost nothing but money?
This is where Kyle Lohse comes in. Coming into the offseason he seemed sure to join the Jason Marquis/Gil Meche/Carlos Silva Memorial Mediocre Veteran Pitchers Who Get $40 Million Deals Club. Scott Boras was actually throwing around ludicrous numbers like 5 years, $50 million. Fortunately for all of us, some sort of fiscal sanity prevailed, and the latest rumors have him ready to sign for just one year and possibly $4 million. Even if it’s not for just $4; even if it’s $5 or $6 million. For one year, how is this not something we ought to be jumping on?
Lohse is by no means an All-Star. He’s got a career ERA+ of 95, or just slightly below average, although that is deflated slightly by a simply brutal 2006. Last year, pitching in two parks that are very hitter-friendly, he gave the Reds 131.2 innings of 4.58 work, and the Phillies 61 innings at 4.72, numbers which come out to exactly league-average (100 ERA+). He’s also durable, having made at least 31 starts in each of his six full seasons in the bigs. A guy who can give you a good amount of league-average innings may not sound that valuable, but when you’re short on pitching and relying on some of the dreck discussed above, you’ll be happy to have it.
Especially on a one-year deal, at money that some teams are throwing around to middle relievers and backup infielders. What’s the downside here? If Loaiza and/or Schmidt come back healthy and effective, then you’ve got one starter too many, and that is never, ever a bad thing.
Let’s do it.