The following passage on a couple of free agent pitchers is from Buster Olney’s ESPN Insider column Saturday:
[Anibal] Sanchez could get anywhere from $30 million to $60 million as a free agent, some agents and executives predict, and Kyle Lohse could get a deal in the $77.5 million range, as C.J. Wilson did last winter.
Does that read completely backwards to anyone else? I’m thinking Lohse may get anywhere from $30 million-$60 million this winter, while Sanchez could well be in that $77.5 million range.
Sanchez is going to pitch next year at 29. Lohse is 34. Here are their numbers from the last three years:
Sanchez: 3.70 ERA, 109 ERA+, 526/182 K/BB ratio in 587 IP
Lohse: 3.76 ERA, 101 ERA+, 308/115 K/BB ratio in 491 1/3 IP
Lohse was the better of the two this year, but he’s the older of the two by 5 1/2 years, his peripherals aren’t very impressive and he’ll be leaving St. Louis. The history of pitchers who had their careers turned around by Dave Duncan and then left for more money is quite bleak.
It’s possible Lohse could get the bigger deal of the two, but I really doubt it. With the way he’s pitched in the postseason, Sanchez looks like the pretty clear No. 2 free agent starter behind Zack Greinke now. Lohse, Jake Peavy and Edwin Jackson are among those trailing behind him. I’m not going to include Hiroki Kuroda anywhere in that mix, since he’s just going to want a one-year deal to pitch somewhere he’s comfortable.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.