Michael Bourn found one way to get around the qualifying offer curse, but are there any teams with protected draft picks who need a thirtysomething innings eater on a medium-term contract?
Michael Bourn's deal with the Cleveland Indians showed one way around the qualifying-offer-driven contract morass that left Kyle Lohse rumors in limbo circa January: He signed with a team whose first-round draft pick falls in the Top 10, which is protected from free-agent compensation.
It's a great fit for both sides; the Indians are in a vulnerable division and have a lot of low-hanging wins in replacement-level positions, and Bourn gets a deal that could go up to $60 milllion if he stays in the lineup. Cleveland has struggled for years to pull off rebuilding as we understand it post-Moneyball—particularly the move from awful team with great prospects to good team with cheap core—and their aggressive play in this year's strange free-agency market is a novel strategy to subvert that process.
If it proves successful—and even before that—other teams that aren't at risk of losing a first-rounder are likely to take note. But does this shift in the market help Kyle Lohse at all?
Kyle Lohse is the ultimate contender's free agent. He's the guy who comes in to plug a hole on a 90-win team when a prospect doesn't pan out; he's the guy a team overpays in 2015 because they want to win their division in 2013. It's possible the Indians could complete their sweep of the qualifying-offer market by picking him off, but that's only because they've already transformed themselves with Bourn and Nick Swisher.
In other words: It looks like Lohse is as uniquely ill-suited for the new free-agency rules as Bourn was for them. Which is bad timing, career-year-wise.