Unfortunately, for you, dear reader, this is...pretty much the same story. But writing this post was inspired by Andrew Vrchota on Wisconsin Sports Blog, where he advocates that Kyle Lohse is the Brewers best and most realistic free agent option. I don't agree, for many of the same reasons Jerry wrote about earlier on this blog, but it's worth repeating the most important reason is he's a...wait. Tom did say we try to be civil here. Ah well, let's just say I don't like Kyle Lohse very much. Here are what I see as the best non-Lohse SP options.
1. Ryan Dempster He turns 36 about a month into the 2013 season, but that's not a concern in my view, as long as he's signed to a 2 year deal (or at best, a 2 year deal with an option). Despite his age, he's had at least 30 starts a year from 2008 to 2011. He had 28 starts last season, but there's no historical reason to expect anything other than natural decline in stamina in starts or innings pitched. And aside from his sub-par 2nd half after his trade to Texas, there's nothing alarming beyond it being an anomaly or adaptation to a new league. His 2.71 BB/9 is pretty so-so, but his 7.96 K/9 was Top 30. His 3.3 fWAR and 3.69 FIP was very solid, in my view. He should be signable to a 2 yr/$24 million deal (with a 3rd year option with 175 IP or similar threshold if necessary). Just to briefly touch on the Lohse issue, the positives of his favorable HR/9 is unduly influenced by a favorable home park. Plus, his very strong season last year statistically (and being represented by Scott Boras) don't bode well for an affordable contract.
2. Brandon McCarthy McCarthy's season ended after a very scary injury when he was struck in the head by a line drive on September 5th. He suffered a fractured skull and needed emergency surgery. By all accounts, he has fully recovered and the injury should not affect his pitching. In that shortened season, he was 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA, 3.76 FIP and a 123 ERA+. He had a great HR/9 of 0.81, but it was probably affected by pitching at home in a huge park. Bill James projects a 2013 of 11-9, with 182 IP, a 3.46 ERA, a 1.73 BB/9 and a 0.89 HR/9 (but it's unclear to me whether he makes that projection on the assumption he comes back to Oakland).
3. Dallas Braden This one is a bit of a flyer. He's coming off 2 shoulder surgeries since 2010, but when healthy, he's proven to be effective. Plus, he's left-handed and is only 29. Given the history, he's a prime candidate for a low-risk, 1 year incentive-driven contract. With incentives for GS and/or IP, the Brewers could easily tie their cost for Braden to actually getting production out of him. That said, I don't think he should be actively pursued unless McCarthy or another reasonable low-cost option can be found.
The Brewers certainly need 1 of the available free agent options. Doug Melvin has to avoid a Jeff Suppan mistake, but also face the fact the market is going to make him pay more than he'd probably like for what's really going to be a mid-tier starter, at best. There's only one true top-line guy available (you know who) and he's about as likely to be part of the Brewers as Josh Hamilton. The upside of all this is the Brewers have a good number of options available to fill out the rest of the rotation. Could Mike Fiers be "figured out" by the league and ineffective next year? Sure. Could the wild Wily Peralta appear? Sure. But risks have to be taken and those risks are better taken with low-cost in-system guys than dead-weight debilitating contracts.