KC Royals Rumors: Should Royals Consider Kyle Lohse


The KC Royals rumors continue to swirl even though the team’s rotation has gotten better. The latest possible option for the boys in blue? Kyle Lohse of Milwaukee. 

Before discussing the worthiness and feasibility of an acquisition like Kyle Lohse, the first question is obviously whether the KC Royals even need to be looking into adding another starting pitcher at all.

Jeremy Guthrie seems to be coming back to form, Jason Vargas is on his way back from the DL, Yordano Ventura threw a gem on Tuesday, and Chris Young has been nothing short of spectacular.

Of course, there’s the odd case of Danny Duffy, who will be facing one of the most important starts of his career this weekend against St. Louis. No matter what happens with Duffy, however, I still don’t think the Kansas City Royals are in dire need of a new pitcher yet. Kris Medlin is starting to rehab, and it’s not unrealistic for guys like Aaron Brooks, Joe Blanton, or Brandon Finnegan to latch onto the back of the rotation at some point this year.

For arguments sake, though, let’s pretend the Royals are looking (word is they actually are, according to David Hill of Kings of Kauffman) and might be ready to make a move. What should they do?

Some have mentioned Scott Kazmir or Mike Leake as options (I find it tough to see Hamels and Cueto given serious consideration at this point), but one name that’s flown under the radar so far is veteran Kyle Lohse.

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Lohse is in the final year of his contract with the Milwaukee Brewers and will make $11 million this year. The Brewers are currently last in the NL Central and 11.5 games out of first place. Only the Oakland Athletics have a worse winning percentage than the Brew Crew. Does it really make any sense at all for a failing team who was the first to fire their manager in 2015 to hold onto a 36-year-old veteran with close to a 6.00 ERA who is still owed over $8 million this season (Source of link: ESPN)?

Even if the answer to that is obvious, the question then becomes whether Lohse is a good fit for KC – and more importantly – what can we make of his 5.85 ERA though eight starts, when he’s averaged under a 3.50 ERA the past four seasons?

Lohse is a guy who throws in the low 90s and relies heavily on his command to be effective. He forces batters to put the ball in play (he’s never had 150 strikeouts in a season), typically with a ground-ball rate of 40%+. The problem is that this year that rate has sunk to 33.6%, and twice as many of his fly balls are leaving the ballpark.

If we dig a little deeper, though, we’ll see there might still be plenty to like about bringing Lohse to KC:

  • Although his fly-ball and home run rates are up, Lohse’s walk rate is down compared to 2014 and his strikeout rate is the highest its been since 2006 (appropriately, that makes his current 3.80 strikeout to walk ratio a career-best). Plus, his velocity has remained stable year-over-year, so diminished power due to age doesn’t seem to be the problem.
  • His xFIP (which, according to FanGraphs, averages out home run rates on the belief that they “are generally unstable over time and fluctuate around league-average”), is a respectable 4.09 (compared to 4.05 and 4.03 the past two years, respectively).
  • Even if you don’t buy into the idea that home run rates average out, or if Lohse really is doing something mechanically different this year leading to a higher fly-ball rate, I don’t think this is anything the wizardry of Dave Eiland couldn’t handle.
  • Finally, he’d be moving from the number one ballpark for home runs to one that ranks in the bottom five, and he would have the Royals’ defensive freakshow backing him up. In case you lost count, the Royals currently lead the league with 39 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). The teams in second and third for DRS have 38, combined.

The bottom line is Lohse has started at least 30 games and averaged around 200 innings a year the past four seasons, and there’s no reason the same can’t hold true in 2015. Unless there’s a drastic change in success soon in Milwaukee, I could see them not only be willing to part with Lohse for a low/mid-range prospect, but perhaps even cover part of his remaining contract.

If it would only cost the Royals $3-4 million and an extra guy in the minors, Lohse is an insurance policy I wouldn’t mind seeing the Royals gamble on.

Next: KC Royals Rumors: Should Johnny Cueto Be Rotation Target

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