The Brewers have shifted struggling veteran Kyle Lohse to the bullpen, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. McCalvy says that Lohse handled the disheartening news well, and while the right-hander didn’t go into detail, it “sounds like” the Brewers are trying to trade him. GM Doug Melvin did discuss Lohse with other teams prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, but nothing materialized, he adds. Via McCalvy, Lohse had the following to say about his move to a relief role:
“That’s where I’ll be residing for the time being, and we’ll just kind of see what options there are, and we’ll go from there. All that stuff is out of my hands, but [the Brewers have] been good to me. Stuck through a pretty tough year and gave me the opportunity to go out there every five days until now. It didn’t work out.”
The 36-year-old Lohse is in the final season of a three-year, $33MM contract signed with the Brewers in Spring Training of the 2013 season. Lohse proved to be a very good value in the first two seasons of the pact, tossing 397 innings with a 3.45 ERA, 6.0 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and a 40.1 percent ground-ball rate. Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference both agreed that he was worth roughly five to six wins over the first two years of the deal, with the latter being a bit more bullish.
The 2015 season, though, has been an entirely different story. Lohse has pitched to a 6.31 ERA in 124 innings this season. He leads the National League in both hits allowed (152) and earned runs (87). The 25 homers he’s yielded are already just three shy of his career-worst 28, despite the fact that he pitched 194 innings when he allowed 28 all the way back in 2004.
McCalvy also notes that the Brewers could simply end up releasing Lohse if they’re unable to find a taker, as they did with veterans Randy Wolf and Jeff Suppan at the tail end of their Milwaukee tenures. Given the fact that Lohse is owed $3.6MM of his $11MM salary through the end of the season, the Brewers would need to eat all or nearly all of the money remaining in order to make a deal happen. Asked if he still intended to pitch beyond the 2015 in spite of this year’s struggles, Lohse answered in the affirmative. “Obviously I’m not ready to hang it up yet,” he said. “The stuff’s still there, [the problem was] just the execution or whatever it was this year.”
While that may strike some as a curious statement given his struggles, it should be noted that Lohse’s velocity, though not overpowering (89.4 mph fastball) is nearly identical to the 89.6 mph he averaged back in 2010 with the Cardinals. Whatever difficulties he’s experienced, it would seem, aren’t due to a decline in arm strength.