You might have forgotten, in the excitement of the start of spring training baseball and the World Baseball Classic, that starter Kyle Lohse is still teamless. The right-handed Lohse, who finished 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA with the Cardinals last year, has been unable to find a team willing to give him the contract he and agent Scott Boras expected going into the off-season. Buster Olney, for example, reported that some agents and general managers felt Lohse could command a deal in the $60-75 million range back in October.
There are some legitimate reasons to be wary of Lohse. He is 34 years old and three years removed from surgery on his right forearm. As research from Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs shows, the older you are and the more you have suffered injuries, the more of an injury risk you become going forward. Additionally, for teams who won’t be picking in the top-ten in the upcoming amateur draft, they would have to surrender their first round pick to sign Lohse.
Lohse, for the last two seasons, has also had results that lay in contradiction with some Sabermetric stats such as xFIP. The thought goes that a pitcher has very little control on the outcomes of batted balls, so a pitcher who has a BABIP far away from .300 in either direction will regress back to .300 in future years. For example, Roy Halladay has a career 3.31 ERA and Adam Eaton has a career 4.94 ERA, but the two are separated by only five points in career BABIP, .293 to .298. Lohse’s BABIP finished at .269 and .262 the last two seasons. As a result, his ERA (3.39, 2.86) was vastly lower than his xFIP (4.04, 3.96). As front offices have become more and more statistically-oriented, it is no surprise to see some apprehension in offering a rich, long-term deal to Lohse.
At FanGraphs, Jack Moore suggests Lohse should take a “pillow contract”. That is, a one-year deal with the intent to continue to build value. Moore cites various pillow contracts that have been given over the years, and the results are mixed. However, it worked out for the most recent player in Edwin Jackson. Jackson took a one-year, $11 million deal with the Nationals, pitched reasonably well, and turned that into a four-year, $52 million contract with the Cubs.
With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.
“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.
“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”
Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.
Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.
It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.
The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.
Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.
As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.
Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.
Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.
The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.
Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.
MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.
Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.
The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.
This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.