He won 16 games, posted a 2.86 ERA and pitched more than 200 innings. Thats a pitching line that every team in the majors would want to have from each of their starters.Kyle Lohse put up those numbers for St. Louis last season, but couldnt find a job for most of spring training. The 34-year-old right-hander turned down a qualifying one-year offer from the Cardinals, believing he could find a multi-year deal on the open market. He eventually did, agreeing to a three-year, $33 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday.The delay for Lohse stemmed from a new rule in the collective bargaining agreement that said the signing team must forfeit their first-round pick. That proved to be a major hurdle for Lohse and his agent, Scott Boras, to overcome.Young players are becoming more and more valuable to teams and there is a clear youth movement throughout baseball.Mike Trout, at 20, became a superstar last season with the Angels, and Bryce Harper, at 19, had a rookie year similar to Mickey Mantle for the Nationals in the nations capital.Giancarlo Stanton is only 23 and is coming off consecutive seasons of 34-plus home runs, Buster Posey was the NL MVP as a 25-year-old last season and Stephen Strasburg has established himself as an ace at 23.Theres definitely an impressive wave of young talent in the game right now, no doubt about it, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.Along with Trout and Harper, Daniels pointed out the influx of young international superstars. The Rangers appear to have found an ace in Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish, while Cuban defectors Yoenis Cespedes (Oakland) and Yasiel Puig (LA Dodgers) have made quick impressions. And dont forget about a pair of left-handed starters from Taiwan, Wei-Yin Chen of the Orioles, and South Korea, Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Dodgers, making an impact.Young players who can make big-time contributions are invaluable to organizations. They come at a fraction of the price it would take in terms of dollars or prospects to acquire one through free agency or trades.Posey made $615,000 last season compared to the $23 million the Twins paid Joe Mauer. Trout will make $510,000 this season, while Josh Hamilton will pull in the first $17 million of a five-year, $125 million contract.Acquiring young talent and building a strong farm system is essential, especially for small-market teams trying to compete against the big spenders.Milwaukee is in that kind of position and general manager Doug Melvin spoke of the importance of those coveted draft picks back when the Brewers were viewed as long shots for Lohse.Prospects are valuable and giving up a first-round pick is big, Melvin said at the Cactus League media day on Feb. 20 in Phoenix. We have the 17th overall pick and Cole Hamels was the 17th pick [in 2002]. CC Sabathia was the 20th pick [in 1998]. Every player in the big leagues was a draft pick and every player was a rookie at some point.Melvin and the Brewers have now lost the 17th overall pick and the bonus pool money attached to it. But, with Lohse, the Brewers believe they have a legitimate World Series shot.Thats the delicate balance every GM and front-office staff has to go through, as there is a fine line between competing in a win-now industry and ensuring you dont mortgage the future of the franchise. Daniels and Melvin have as good of track records of any when it comes to pulling the trigger at the right time.You wrestle with that in your war rooms all the time, Melvin said. Any time you have franchise like ours, you have to be careful about giving up younger players.Especially if they could become the next Trout or Harper or Darvish.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison