Three Potential Bargains In MLB Free Agency: Lohse, K-Rod And Thome/Hafner Tandem

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

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Kyle Lohse was 16-3 with an NL Best .842 Win PCTG in 2012 - with a Career best 2.86 ERA

Kyle Lohse was 16-3 with an NL Best .842 Win PCTG in 2012 – with a Career best 2.86 ERA,

Sam Evans (Baseball Writer): 

Travis Hafner, Francisco Rodriguez, and Kyle Lohse have all shown that they can be above-average Major League players. However, with all three above the age of 30, teams are nervous to sign any of them to the multi-year contracts they want. Hafner has dealt with knee and back injuries over the past two seasons, but he still can bring power to an American League team in need of a DH. Francisco Rodriguez has always dealt with off the field issues, but he was very effective as Milwaukee’s set-up man in 2012. Kyle Lohse, who is coming off a season in which he posted a 3.51 FIP in 211, is the top free agent pitcher on the market right now but his age and inconsistency scares away possible suitors. Despite their age, inconsistency, and injuries, all three of these players could play a large role on MLB teams in 2013.

Travis Hafner Highlights – Mature Lyrics so Parental Guidance is advised:

From 2004-2007, "Pronk" averaged 31 HRs and 106 RBI per season with an OPS of around 1.00.  He has fallen on hard times with injuries, yet still has 217 RBI in 1476 AB.  This works out to be around 85-90 RBI per 600 AB.

From 2004-2007, “Pronk” averaged 31 HRs and 106 RBI per season with an OPS of around 1.00. He has fallen on hard times with injuries in the last 5 years, yet still has 217 RBI in 1476 AB. This works out to be around 85-90 RBI per 600 AB.

Travis Hafner has over 200 career HRs and he posted his highest BB% (12.5%) since 2007 in 2012. However, he  hasn’t hit 20 HRs in a single-season since 2007 and he only played in 66 games last year. That’s not to say Hafner still can’t provide value to a team, whether it be coming off the bench or sharing a platoon role. Hafner has only had two seasons in his 10-year MLB career when he posted a wRC+ under 100, the last being in 2008. Nonetheless, Hafner is probably only a Designated Hitter at this point, so his options are pretty meek.

Hafner, who has expressed interest in returning to the Indians, hasn’t gotten much, if any, interest from teams other than Cleveland. According to Jon Heyman, there is a chance that former Cleveland stars Jim Thome and Hafner could be reunited to share duties as the team’s DH in 2013. While a couple of years ago it would seem insane that Hafner would be forced to share the DH role, it looks like that might be the best offer he can get in 2013. Even though both Hafner and Thome hit Right-Handed pitchers better than Lefties, Hafner has considerably better numbers against Lefties than Thome does in comparison (.197 to .179).  If you combined the two guys totals, it comes to be 20 HRs and 59 RBI in just 382 AB – but they would also have 57 Walks.  They only hit about .240 combined, however their OBP was still .352 combined- with an OPS of .792.  They would provide similar production to what most DH’s do for the AL teams.

Perhaps if Cleveland platooned the two and just told Hafner to concentrate on hitting primarily Left-Handed Pitchers, he could stay healthy for the entire season. Travis Hafner is still an above-average MLB hitter, he just needs to find the right scenario, in which he won’t be playing everyday and he’ll be where can help mentor the team’s younger hitters.

Jim Thome is a prime example of an aging veteran whose career was extended due to the DH position. He now sits at 7th on the all-time HR list with 612. Will he catch on and try and run down Ken Griffey Jr's 630 HRs for 6th ALL Time in big flies?

Jim Thome is a prime example of an aging veteran whose career was extended due to the DH position. He now sits at 7th on the all-time HR list with 612. Will he catch on with a tean and run down Ken Griffey Jr’s 630 HRs for 6th ALL Time in big flies?

If I were running a Major League franchise this offseason and planning on contending, I wouldn’t think twice about signing Francisco Rodriguez. Sure, he’s old, and problems seem to follow him every where he goes, but his numbers in the second half of 2012 suggest that he still has a lot left in the tank. Rodriguez had 32 holds in 2012, tied for third in all of baseball. Even though he struggled when given the closer role, his next team will likely be using him as a set-up man instead of a closer. After the All-Star break, Rodriguez had a 10.26 K/9, a 3.78 BB/9, and a 3.24 FIP. Those are pretty dominant numbers, especially considering that Rodriguez was pitching in the pitcher’s nightmare that is Miller Park. Rodriguez probably won’t get more than a 1 year deal, but whichever team signs him will be lucky they did.

Kyle Lohse has either had terrible luck this offseason, or MLB teams know something about him that we don’t. It seems absurd that a pitcher who threw over 200 innings with a sub 3.00 ERA in 2012 can’t find a team willing to pay him. The most impressive statistic about Lohse’s 2012 season was his BB/9. Lohse’s BB/9 of 1.62 was third in baseball amongst pitchers with 200 or more innings. Sure, it’s odd that Lohse’s most productive season to date came at age 34, but maybe he just put everything together last season? I can see why a team wouldn’t want to sign Lohse for more than two years, but he should be worth a fair amount of money during that time. For Lohse, whose agent is Scott Boras, teams are also scared to sign him because they’d have to give up a draft pick. Still, Lohse could find a new home in Texas or Colorado, if either team decides he’s worth the price.

Overall, it will be very exciting to see how which teams these players will sign with, and how they will perform in 2013. Even though they are all veterans, so we’ve seen the highs and lows of their career, none of these three is easy to foretell heading into the new season. However, if any of these guys finds the right team, they could end up being one of the top free agent bargains of the 2012-2013 offseason.

K-Rod is only 31 Years of Age and has 294 Career Saves - for 6h amongst active players and 25th ALL-Time.  He hasn't been a closer since mid-2011 for the Mets, will a team take a chance on him to close- (Ahem Pirates) or will he be used as a setup guy?

K-Rod is only 31 Years of Age and has 294 Career Saves – for 6h amongst active players and 25th ALL-Time. He hasn’t been a closer since mid-2011 for the Mets, will a team take a chance on him to close – (Ahem Pirates) or will he be used as a setup guy?

(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)

Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter 

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About samevans87

I love writing, talking, watching, and playing baseball. I am a baseball writer for MLB Reports and Fish Stripes. "No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined." -Paul Gallic

Posted on January 27, 2013, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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