At 61-51, the Cardinals are still stuck in third place in the NL Central, but have been enjoying an overall solid year. However, several players for them are having personal seasons that are far above solid. One of these players is Kyle Lohse.
At 12-2, the 33-year-old is putting up incredible numbers, and has been the ace of the pitching staff. Only Lance Lynn (13-5), another very pleasant surprise for the Cards this year, has more wins for the team, but Lohse has clearly been the best. His efforts rank with the very top of the National League as well–in nice 1-2-3 fashion. Lohse leads the NL in winning percentage (.857), is second in ERA (2.79), and is third in innings pitched (148 1/3).
Kyle Lohse and the Cardinals are, of course, both thrilled with the year he is having, but it will likely be Lohse who has the last laugh. The right-hander picked the perfect time to have a career year, and if the Cardinals wish to retain him after this season, it will come at a steep price. Lohse is in the final year of a 4-year, $41 million deal, and will be one of the top few free agent pitchers on the market this offseason.
Among the free agent hurlers, Zack Greinke leads the pack and is set to earn nine figures, but Lohse is right in the thick of that “second tier” of pitchers that follows Greinke, which includes Edwin Jackson, Brandon McCarthy, and Anibal Sanchez. Recently, ESPN analyst Buster Olney stated that the Scott Boras-represented Lohse could potentially be offered on the open market near what Mark Buehrle did last offseason from the Miami Marlins, 4 years and $58 million.
Personally, I side with the skeptics who question whether teams will be ready to pony up $50+ million to someone like Lohse, who after all, is only two years removed from an injury-shorted season in which he went 4-8 with a 6.55 ERA, and has a career ERA of 4.49, much higher than this season’s mark. And while pitchers usually age better than hitters, the fact that he will be 34 next year will make GMs even more cautious.
My feeling is that Lohse will get an offer from a team of 3 years and around $42 million, and the Cardinals will choose not to match that offer, and let him go. I just think the Cardinals are comfortable enough with the other starters they have, and they will not want to overpay for Lohse, not forgetting about his very mediocre production in the first half of his current deal with the team. They will tell him ‘thanks for the last couple years, but we are moving on.’