5:18pm: Detroit does not appear to have present interest in Lohse, Chris Iott of MLive.com tweets.
4:47pm: Free agent right-hander Kyle Lohse is drawing interest from the Tigers, Reds and Orioles, and Baltimore has made an offer to the Scott Boras client, reports MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). It’s not known whether the 37-year-old has received any other contract offers.
Lohse hit the open market after arguably the worst season of his career — the final campaign of a three-year, $33MM deal with the Brewers. Though Lohse had logged a 3.28 ERA in his four prior seasons combined (796 1/3 innings), his production evaporated entirely, as he lost his spot in the rotation following a 6.31 ERA over his first 124 innings (22 starts). Lohse was said to take the demotion professionally and, to his credit, turned his season around to an extent once he was transferred to the bullpen. In 28 1/3 relief innings to close out 2015, Lohse posted a much more characteristic 3.81 ERA with 22 strikeouts against 13 walks.
Over 15 years in the majors, Lohse has worked to a 4.37 ERA. But his best work has come relatively late in his career; since 2008 (his age-29 season), that ERA is a much stronger 3.99 over 1358 1/3 innings. Teams looking at his potential to contribute even at a fairly advanced age will surely also note that Lohse has maintained his roughly 89 mph fastball velocity rather consistently, and has even managed to elevate his swinging strike rate over recent years (topping out at 9.1% last season). To some extent, his struggles in 2015 trace to an uncharacteristically high 15.3% HR/FB rate, a somewhat elevated .314 BABIP, and a 68.7% strand rate that fell below the league average of 73.4%.
Heyman notes that Lohse is looking for the “right fit,” though it’s not clear what exactly that would mean for him. Veterans in his situation could prioritize any number of factors, such as the promise of a rotation spot (or at least the opportunity to earn one in relatively short order), playing near their home, and/or signing with a team that is a postseason contender (to name a few). Wherever he ends up, Lohse seems likely to sign a minor league deal, which would allow him to head to Triple-A to see some work in a game setting, though he may not need to build up too much durability, as Heyman also tweets that Lohse has been throwing weekly simulated games that consist of 90 pitches.
Any of the three listed clubs makes some sense for Lohse. The Orioles have a questionable big league rotation, and while Lohse is hardly a lock to add any form of stability, he’d give Baltimore a much-needed depth option, as their collection of MLB-ready arms in the minors is limited. The Reds have a number of rotation options, but few that have much in the way of big league experience, and Lohse could help to shoulder the load. The Tigers, meanwhile, have a full rotation at the Major League level, but Mike Pelfrey has struggled early, and others such as Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander have dealt with injuries in recent seasons, so Lohse could serve as a depth option there as well.