February 13, 2013
Wednesday, February 13
With Michael Bourn joining the Indians, agent Scott Boras is 2-for-3 when it comes to finding new homes for clients dogged by rejected qualifying offers. The elephant in the room for Boras is Kyle Lohse, whose stock has waned because of the draft-pick cost associated with signing him, and perhaps because teams are unwilling to extend a lucrative commitment to a 34-year-old pitcher coming off of a career year. As a reward for his patience in the face of disillusionment, Lohse gets today’s Roundup all to himself.
Nationals could make a play for Lohse
There is no evidence, at this point, that Gonzalez was supplied with—or consumed—a banned substance, which means that we have no reason to believe that a 50-game suspension is forthcoming. However, general manager Mike Rizzo and owner Ted Lerner would much rather be safe than sorry, in light of the latter’s advanced age and the Braves’ offseason improvements. If the market for Lohse is entirely dry, then waiting for an indication that Gonzalez will miss the first third of the season may be Boras’ best bet to obtain at least the $13.3 million guarantee that he advised his client to forgo.
From the Nationals’ perspective, relying on the elite, but fragile, rotation is a risky proposition. Strasburg and Zimmermann are Tommy John surgery survivors, and Haren, after years of outstanding durability, was plagued by back woes last year. All of that would be less worrisome if Washington had a capable sixth starter available in the event of an injury, but swingman Zach Duke last made a major-league start on July 10, 2011, and Christian Garcia may not have the durability to handle a move to the rotation. Other early-season options include Yunesky Maya, Ross Ohlendorf, and Tanner Roark, but none of the three is likely to offer anything more than replacement-level performance.
A 50-game suspension for Gonzalez could be the difference between a division title and home-field advantage in the postseason, and the potential to be one-and-done in a wild-card playoff or to miss the playoffs entirely. With their pennant window wide open—if Gonzalez is sidelined or another starter sustains a long-term injury—that is just the sort of risk that might compel Rizzo and Lerner to meet Boras’ demands and worry about a potential six-starter logjam in late May.
Since the Nationals already surrendered their first-round pick to sign Soriano, Lohse would only cost them a second-rounder, which Kilgore believes could help Rizzo and Lerner to swallow a larger salary. Kilgore also mentioned that the Nationals are keeping tabs on Javier Vazquez’s potential return to the majors as an alternative insurance policy, but depending on the timetable of hypothetical events, they could be forced to render a decision on Lohse before Vazquez makes up his mind. For now, all of this is smoke without fire, and there is no way to gauge whether the flames will ever come.