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Whither Kyle Lohse?

(Photo: Lohse doing his Tony LaRussa impersonation.)

After the Brewers failed to secure the services of longtime nemesis Ryan Dempster, the next best option on the free agent market seemed to be Kyle Lohse.  Considering that the Brewers’ 2011 division title was attributable in no small part to the acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, it’s understandable that fans would want a veteran presence to stabilize the rotation.  We all love Gallardo for sure, but it was comforting to know if Yo had a suboptimal start, there were other guys in the rotation that could stop a bad streak.  By favoring young starters (plus Chris Narveson, who only looks young) in 2013, the Brewers appear to be taking a big chance.

Lohse seems like a guy who could do a lot of good.  The fact that he remains unsigned makes the possibility of him pitching for the Brewers all the more enticing.  Just a few days ago, Tom Haudricourt teased us with an article about how Lohse could still be a Brewer.  Anything that Haudricourt writes is as close to true as anything we’ll read on the Internet, so a potentially successful Lohse courtship still seems like a real possibility.

Since Lohse is coming off a 16-3, 2.86 ERA season, it’s tempting to think he could essentially replace Greinke (“You can’t replace a guy like Greinke!”).  At the very least, it seems like a stronger bet Lohse will be able to repeat his best season than Marco Estrada will be able to repeat his best season.  Since it looks like Mark Rogers has pitched himself into the bullpen with an unremarkable spring, we’re currently looking at a rotation of: Gallardo, Estrada, Narveson, Fiers, and Peralta.

That’s all well and good, and it may well be enough to make a run at a wild card.  But it just doesn’t feel like a rotation that can outperform St. Louis and Cincinnati.  Of course, the addition of Lohse wouldn’t guarantee anything, but if you say it out loud – “Gallardo, Lohse, Narveson, Estrada, Peralta” – it just sounds more…I’m not sure if “titillating” is the right word, but it’s the ballpark of the right word.  (Nothing against Fiers, but Peralta pitched six strong innings against the Angels on Tuesday so he’s my current squeeze).

The most obvious potential downside of signing Lohse is that he’s 34 (almost 240 in dog years) and presumably still looking for a three-year deal.  With the Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf signings widely viewed as busts – although I tend to think Wolf doesn’t deserve as much disdain as he gets – you can understand a certain amount of skepticism about giving Lohse more than two years.  There is also the matter of draft pick compensation, but Mark Attanasio has indicated he wouldn’t sweat it if the price was right.

The biggest thing is…you just never know with pitching.  Wolf had a great 2011 and pitched a glorious Game 4 in the NLCS before petering out in 2012.  Jeff Suppan was infamously useless during his final years in Milwaukee – and then shut the Brewers down for five innings as a Padre last year.  You just. never. know.  About the only thing we can be sure of is that if Lohse ends up signing elsewhere, no matter how well he does it will just feel like the Brewers missed out on a huge opportunity.  It will be especially galling if Estrada, Fiers, and Peralta all end up with ERAs over 5.00.  And if it turns out that Manny Parra becomes a lights-out setup man for the Reds, we’ll hardly be able to drag ourselves out of bed in the morning.

If Lohse doesn’t eventually land with the Brewers, hopefully we’ll at least find out they made a good run at him.  And then maybe Haudricourt will write a story about how Lohse and Scott Boras were totally unreasonable to make us feel better – because we’ll definitely believe it.