Kyle Lohse: 'Very good feeling' to be with Milwaukee Brewers

PHOENIX -- He looked at his rotation this spring.

He looked at the draft pick he would lose this summer.

He looked again. And over these past several weeks, he kept looking.

And then general manager Doug Melvin gambled on the present.

Kyle Lohse will begin tuning up for the Brewers immediately and, even signing at this late date, is expected to be pitching in Milwaukee by the second week of the season. His days of throwing this spring to the Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes are now a footnote in history.

Ultimately deciding to gamble on this summer instead of worrying about the future -- for now -- Melvin sacrificed his first-round pick in next June's draft -- 17th overall -- for the next three seasons with Lohse at a total of $33 million.

“We’re a better ballclub today than we were yesterday,” Melvin said. “We’re happy to have Kyle coming to our club.

“It’s my job to be responsible to the organization in both the present and the future. Losing a first-round pick is tough, but it’s a decision we had to make.”

Not that the Brewers were wobbly on the mound this spring, but the line of dependable starters behind Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada was shrinking more rapidly than Lohse’s window to sign before opening day.

“We still like our young pitchers,” Melvin said. “This doesn’t have anything to do with panicking.”

But it has everything to do with watching Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers and Chris Narveson fail to step up after leading the Brewers on a surprising run in the second half of last season after they shipped Zack Greinke to Anaheim.

With Lohse, 34, who went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA over 33 starts for the Cardinals last season, the Brewers have a chance to at least hang in the race through July. At which point, at the trade deadline, they can acquire some reinforcements.

Without Lohse, the gap separating the Reds and Cardinals from the Brewers would have been too extreme. At least, given the meatballs Milwaukee’s starters have been serving up here in the desert.

Given that Lohse has won 30 games over 63 starts in the past two seasons, the Brewers are trusting that he will not channel awful memories of Jeff Suppan.

So are their fans. Late Monday, the Brewers announced via Twitter that the club sold 34,000 tickets to individual games since news of the Lohse signing broke earlier in the day. On an average day a week before opening day, the Brewers said, they normally sell around 7,000 tickets.

Clearly, this was not a normal day – particularly for Lohse, who also signed late (March 14) in the spring of 2008 as well.

Lohse, who has been working out in his Phoenix-area home and throwing to hitters from Grand Canyon University and Scottsdale Community College, admitted it is a relief to finally sign.

“Anybody would be lying if they told you it’s not [a relief] at this point,” Lohse said. “You get a lot of questions. Everybody is concerned. You get a lot of texts from your friends.

“It will be nice not to have to answer those anymore. I always knew something was going to work out. I didn’t know it would be this late.”

His agent, Scott Boras, said “five or six clubs” initially contacted him about Lohse in November, all playoff-caliber clubs. But as they sorted through their internal decisions, Boras said each club cited its unwillingness to surrender a draft pick as a reason for not moving on Lohse.

Rules changes in the new collective bargaining agreement mandated that if a club tendered one of its free agents a one-year, $13.3 million offer after the 2012 season and the player opted for free agency instead, the signing team would forfeit its first-round pick to the club losing the player.

Texas and a handful of other clubs were interested in Lohse, but not enough to forfeit a draft pick.

Boras is not happy with the new system, saying it has created a system that can penalize players who excel and reward players who do not.

Edwin Jackson, for example, signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs over the winter after the Nationals declined to make the $13.3 million offer. Jackson went 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA for the Nats in 2012, numbers nowhere close to those produced by Lohse.

“The system in place affects the majors leagues, the players and the development,” Boras said. “It prevents a lot of people from doing their jobs effectively.”

Boras set a deadline of Sunday for pulling the trigger on a decision with Lohse.

“This is obviously taking this to the Nth degree,” he said of this late spring date.

The Brewers agreed to pay Lohse $11 million per season from 2013-2015, though $7 million will be deferred from his 2013 salary and paid out between 2016 and 2018.

“This was an opportunity to add someone who has had two outstanding seasons the last two years,” Melvin said.

“It’s a very good feeling to be in a comfortable place with a team that is competitive and expects to win,” said Lohse, who can earn a $350,000 incentive in each season he reaches the 190 innings-pitched threshhold.

The Brewers may miss this summer’s first-round pick in coming years. But say one thing for Melvin and owner Mark Attanasio: They play to win.

From acquiring CC Sabathia in 2008 to trading for Greinke before the 2011 season to popping for Lohse, the Brewers sure don’t sit around and wait for things to happen.

Even if, by happenstance, that is exactly what Lohse was doing before saddling up for another NL Central race.

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