The Washington Nationals enter the 2013 season with one of the strongest rotations in the majors. There have been suggestions that the Nationals could bolster their rotation even further by signing 34 year old veteran Kyle Lohse as insurance. While adding a proven starter with a 3.6 WAR in 2012 may seem intriguing, in the end the National’s would be better off applying their resources to their long-term needs.
So we all know what happened to Walter Donovon in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He got greedy when selecting for the Holy Grail. Instead he selected the fancy grail, rapidly aged decades and died. The real grail was a modest wooden grail that was functional and in plain sight.
Kyle Lohse is the fancy grail. The standard numbers indicate a workhorse with a career best 2.86 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 2012. While this is a pitcher any team would scoop up, his presence on the market may indicate that teams are worried that 2012 was a career best that Lohse will not be able to duplicate.
Lohse was lucky in 2012. BABIP was a career low .262 and his strand rate was a career high 77.2 percent. This translated into an xFIP that was over a full run higher than his ERA at 3.96. Steamer, Bill James, and Oliver projection for 2013 expect Lohse production to be more return to his career norms with an ERA over 3.50 and 2.5ish WAR.
The Nationals would be Walter Donovon, minus all the evil stuff of course. Their greed would cost the franchise another high draft pick. Considering they have already lost their first round selection because of the signing of Rafael Soriano, it would behoove them invest in the future. The Nationals are a young and vibrant team. The signing of overpriced veterans (e.g. the Yankees) prematurely ages a team. While the Nationals are in no danger of rapid decay like Mr. Donovon, the Nationals have a proven track record turning second round picks into MLB starters. Furthermore, the money used to sign Lohse could be applied to working out extensions for Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann.
Ross Detwiler is the plain wooden grail in the Nationals rotation. The former first round pick had a solid season in his first would be the odd man out of the rotation if the Lohse was brought on board. Detwiler’s 2012 numbers favorably compare to Lohse and at 26 years old, his potential is trending upwards. Detwiler was also lucky in 2012, but to a lesser degree. His 3.40 ERA in 2012 translated to an xFIP of 4.34. His projections for 2013 do call for a slight increase in his ERA to about 3.82 and a 1.9 WAR.
Detwiler will also make $2.34 million in 2013, about $10 million less than what Lohse is expected to sign for. Is 0.6 wins, slowing player development, and getting older worth $10 million? Don’t be tempted by bright, shiny, fancy things.