We knew it was going to happen. We didn't know who or what or where or when or why. But we knew it was going to happen, and now it has: Kyle Lohse has finally found work, and with the Milwaukee Brewers no less. Reportedly for three years and $33 million, pending his physical.
Does Lohse make the Brewers contenders, though? Last time I checked, the Brewers looked like a losing team.
According to Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds Report, here are the top five teams in the National League:
Even considering that projections are lousy at predicting outliers -- we know that somebody in the National League is going to win more than 89 games, and it's really hard to figure how the Nationals win only 86 -- at least everybody's on the same playing field, statistically speaking. So it looks to me like all you're trying to do at this point is get to 83 wins on Opening Day paper, after which you can let God sort 'em out.
So does Kyle Lohse push the Brewers to 83 wins on Opening Day paper?
Reasonable projections for Lohse make him about 3 Wins Above Replacement.
He's taking the place in the Brewers' rotation of someone like Mark Rogers or Wily Peralta. Rogers has suffered through a terrible spring, with a dozen walks and three strikeouts. Peralta's been better, but hasn't looked a lot like the Brewers' No. 1 pitching prospect (which he is).
One way or another, we can guess the Brewers would probably have come up with a replacement-level starter if they hadn't signed Lohse. Which means Lohse makes the Brewers an 81-win team on Opening Day paper. Which still isn't enough to make them good bets for a postseason berth.
There are, of course, other factors. There are always other factors. Sending Peralta back to the minors for a spell will likely keep him under the club's control through 2018, which might wind up being a real good thing. If Lohse pitches well -- and there's no good reason to think he won't -- the Brewers can probably trade him for prospects, especially if they're willing to eat a few million dollars.
There's also goodwill to consider. The Brewers play in Major League Baseball's smallest market, and yet somehow they drew more than 2.8 million paying customers last year; the year before that, they drew nearly 3.1 million and ranked fourth in the National League in attendance.
The Brewers have constructed a sort of unspoken compact with their fans: We'll keep trying to win if you keep showing up. And the fans, vice versa. It's not certain that the compact is inviolable; maybe if the Brewers suffered through a few losing seasons in a row, the good Cream Citians would just keep showing up, sustained by past glories and the prospect of better times ahead.
Probably not, though. Probably the Brewers need to keep winning, or at least trying to win, lest their attendance (and yes, their revenues) begin to reflect their home's relatively paltry population.
All that said, three years does seem like a long time.
For much more about Lohse and the Brewers, please visit SB Nation's Brew Crew Ball.