Sure, the Twins COULD sign Kyle Lohse. If you completely ignore his past.
A few days ago, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe speculated on the curious (to him) fact that Kyle Lohse hasn’t signed yet, concluding, “The Mariners, Tigers, Orioles, Royals, Twins, Brewers, Pirates, and Rockies are all potential spots.”
Now, one can see where an outsider might get the idea that Lohse would be a good fit with the Twins. They’ve made no secret this offseason that they are looking to add quality starting pitching, and Lohse, odd as it may seem, has become a very good starting pitcher. One can assume that his value is quite low, this far into the offseason -- it can’t be a coincidence that all the teams Cafardo lists save perhaps the Tigers tend to be bargain-hunters -- and that one of those teams should be taking a flyer on him at the current, presumably suppressed rate.
On the other hand, anyone who’s been a Twins fan for more than half a decade is likely to know instantly that it’s not going to happen. Lohse spent parts of six seasons with the Twins, some pretty good, some bad, and one average-ish, and for the final five of those seasons, his manager was the same guy who will manage the team on opening day 2013. In late 2005, Lohse took a baseball bat to Gardenhire’s office door after being pulled early from a game. The two reportedly “settled their differences,” but it wasn’t Lohse’s only known attitude issue during his time in Minnesota, and he lasted only 22 more mostly terrible games (with only eight of them starts) in 2006 before being shipped out for a minor leaguer who failed to rise as far as Triple-A.
We’re all likely well aware of Gardenhire’s tendency to favor or disfavor certain players, and how incredibly tenacious those tendencies can be. His sticking with Nick Punto through thick (er, medium) and thin is certainly the most well-known and/or overplayed example.It’s hard to see him welcoming back a pitcher with whom he has that kind of negative history -- and that’s assuming Lohse would be willing to play for Gardenhire as well.
It’s not as though Lohse was popular in Minnesota, so to the extent to which the Twins are trying to bring in veteran pitching to build fan interest -- and I have to assume that’s a relatively large part of it, since it’s not going to help them much in the standings in 2013 -- Lohse is probably a less than ideal target. I suppose crazier things have happened, but not many; Lohse just isn’t coming back.
Even if a Lohse deal could happen, there’s absolutely no reason it should. This is becoming kind of a theme for me around here (see this, and this, and to some extent this), but the Twins were a bad team in 2012, and the pitchers they’ve brought in plus Kyle Lohse are not going to give them the twenty or so additional wins they’d need to become a good one. The coming season is likely to be a lost one, and unless there’s a solid chance Lohse will bring back a great return in trade, I don’t believe there’s any reason for the Twins to be signing anyone for 2013 that they don’t expect to be just as good or better in 2014 and maybe 2015 as well.
There aren’t many pitchers like that, and I hate to say this about a guy who’s roughly my age, but Lohse certainly isn’t one of them. Lohse was good last year, at 33. It was also the best year of his career. That’s unlikely enough to be repeated in 2013, let alone 2014 and 2015 (for two sobering comparisons, check out the age-33 seasons from Ted Lilly and Bruce Chen, then look at what they did after). The Twins don’t figure to benefit much from Lohse’s 2013, which you have to assume is the best year he has left, and Lohse may well not have much left to give them for long after that.
Finally, Lohse won’t be signed for the reason most often cited for his remaining on the market: The team that signs him forfeits a high draft pick. This is less of a problem for the Twins than for most other teams; the top ten picks in the draft are protected, and the Twins hold the fourth. However, they’ll still give up their next-highest pick, which appears to be the approximately the 40th-overall pick. Players taken between 38th and 41st overall in past drafts have included David Wright, Larry Hisle, Barry Bonds, Gio Gonzalez, Don Baylor, Huston Street, Kevin Tapani, and Fred Lynn. There are a lot of clunkers in there too, of course, and plenty of guys who never even sniffed the minors, but that sort of pick has a lot of value, especially to a rebuilding team like the Twins.
Whatever the Twins might be able to get in return for trading Lohse in the middle of this year (or the next) would be unlikely to equal the value of that lost second-round pick, let alone the pick plus whatever money the Twins would have to pay Lohse himself. That’s why I wrote last week that the remaining free agents like Lohse -- the ones good enough to receive a “qualifying offer” from their prior-year teams but not enticing enough to be worth a draft pick plus a good salary to anyone else -- were something of a lost class, and really only make sense to the teams that had them in 2012. Going forward, I think we’ll see a lot more of the Lohses of the world accept their teams’ qualifying offers and avoid the kind of no-man’s land in which Lohse is now lost.
Now, Lohse almost certainly makes sense to some team, at some relatively low price -- of the teams Cafardo mentioned, the Tigers, Orioles, Brewers, and even the Pirates or Mariners could decide that once the dollars get low enough, his contribution to their 2013 chances is worth the pick. It can’t be the Twins, though. Of course, we all know it won’t be, for unrelated reasons. Even the fans with no ill will toward Lohse from his last trip through town should be awfully glad for that.