Lohse: The next Meche
Now that White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle has signed long-term, Cubs right-hander Carlos Zambrano looms as the top 30-and-under starting pitcher on the free-agent market — and the Cubs still might retain "Big Z" once their potential ownership choices are narrowed down to one or two groups.
The rest of the 2007-08 free-agent class is so weak, one scout wonders whether Reds right-hander Kyle Lohse will be this year's version of Royals righty Gil Meche, a talented but inconsistent pitcher who hits the jackpot on the open market.
It could happen.
Lohse, who turns 29 on Dec. 4, has done little to warrant a major long-term investment, but then, neither had Meche at this point a year ago.
Meche, then 28, was 55-44 with a 4.65 career ERA when he became a free agent. Lohse currently is 59-73 with a 4.84 career ERA. His strikeout rate is lower than Meche's was at the end of last season. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is higher. Their walks-and-hits-per-nine-innings ratios are nearly identical.
Lohse is almost certain to be traded to a contender before July 31. His performance in the final two months will help determine how well he fares as a free agent.
- The Mets are one of several clubs interested in the Reds' Jeff Conine as a right-handed hitter off the bench. Conine and Lohse are the Reds most likely to be moved. The Twins and Diamondbacks are two other clubs that could be in the mix for Conine.