Could St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse get Mark Buehrle money as a free agent this off-season? At first mention, the idea seems outlandish. After all, Buehrle has a stronger track record of success and durability, but Lohse did lead last season’s World Series winner in wins (14) and starter’s ERA (3.39), and this season he is 12-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 24 starts.
Last off-season, after posting a 13-9 record and a 3.59 ERA for the White Sox, the 33-year-old Buehrle inked a four-year, $58 million with the free-wheeling Miami Marlins. Even though the left-hander had eclipsed 200 innings in 11 straight seasons, and had a career 161-119 record with a 3.83 ERA in 12 years (all with Chicago), the deal still seemed excessive.
Like Buehrle, Lohse is 33. Those are where the comparisons end. Entering the 2012 season, the 29th round draft pick of the Cubs in 1996 owned a 102-106 record in 11 Major League seasons. In 2003, he won 14 games for the Twins, the team with which he reached the bigs, but his ERA was 4.61.
Lohse’s career changed for the better when he signed with St. Louis in 2008 for one year and $4.25 million. That season, he was 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA. Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan had another reclamation project success story.
St. Louis locked up Lohse for four years and $41 million, and his deal is set to expire at season’s end. With the Cardinals, he is 51-34 with a 3.95 ERA. Over the last two seasons, he has logged more innings pitched than hits allowed for the first time in his career.
Lohse’s post-season numbers are ghastly. He is 0-4 with a 5.54 ERA in nine games, including four starts. In the World Series last October, Lohse was knocked around for three runs and five hits in three innings in one start. That followed an NLCS appearance that saw him cough up three runs and six hits in 4.1 innings.
St. Louis and Lohse appear to be ideal matches for each other, but a four-year commitment to a starter who will be 34 in October is a risk, especially since Lohse has career marks of 114-108 with a 4.48 ERA even when this season’s numbers are incorporated. A three-year, $36 million sounds more realistic. Yet, as the Marlins showed last year when they signed Buehrle, anything is possible for even a starter with unspectacular career stats.