Major League Baseball's spring training is in full swing, with all 30 teams prepping for the start of the 2013 season, which opens March 31. Perhaps the most surprising storyline so far–and one that is leading pundits to speculate–is Kyle Lohse, Nomlaki Nation, still being a free agent. The ace starting pitcher went 16-3 for the St. Louis Cardinals last season, finishing seventh in National League Cy Young Award voting for best pitcher. The Native American hurler set career bests in earned run average (2.86), strikeouts (143) and innings pitched (211). And yet, Lohse's still looking for work.
In January, Lohse commented on the situation: "[Signing a new deal] has been a little slower than I anticipated with the whole first-round draft pick thing holding things up. But it'll get worked out," he told KFNS radio in St. Louis.
Throughout that interview, Aol.SportingNews.com reports, Lohse mentioned that teams might be shying away from him because they would have to surrender a first-round pick if they signed him (part of the latest collective bargaining agreement). With draft picks being valued more than ever, teams are hesitant to part with them. Teams signing a free agent in Lohse's class would not have part with a pick if they land him in June. That's more than two months into the season–hardly ideal for Lohse.
What's also likely not helping is that Lohse is repped by ruthless superagent Scott Boras. Reports indicate that Boras is looking for a three-year deal with a hefty annual raise over the nearly $12 million Lohse earned last year with the Cardinals. There aren't many clubs in the sport that can even consider that price tag.
For now, the righthander is working out and facing college hitters in simulated games in Arizona to get into pitching shape after the long offseason. Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star Telegram reports that Lohse “has been working on a normal spring training schedule and is facing college hitters in simulated games.”
That’s smart, observes NBC Sports's Hardball Talk blog, because if/when Lohse does sign somewhere he wouldn’t have much time to build up arm strength for the regular season. This way he’ll basically be ready to step into a rotation without pitch count limitations.