If the Cardinals were to end up with Kyle Lohse, his return would likely be a lot like his arrival back in 2008 when he was signed when spring training was already underway to a make-good contract.
Lohse seems like the perfect fit to return to St. Louis with the loss of Chris Carpenter to injury. After all, Lohse was the guy who stepped in to be the Redbirds' number two starter in 2011 when Adam Wainwright was injured and again in 2012 when Carpenter couldn't pitch.
But agent Scott Boras is certainly exploiting the situation, telling potential suitors who have so far held off on offering Lohse a long term contract about how badly the Cardinals want their former veteran pitcher back. If anyone is on the fence about signing Lohse, 55-25 with a 3.90 ERA in five years with St. Louis, now is the time for them to make their move.
The Cardinals are going to be on the hook at least for a significant portion of Carpenter's contract. They may have some insurance on the deal that would pay off if he is determined to be permanently disabled. But it won't cover all of the deal. So the Cardinals probably can't afford to pay Lohse $15 million or so.
When he arrived in 2008 Lohse was inexplicably left on the shelf when the free agent shopping frenzy ended. The Cardinals ended up landing him for the bargain basement price of $4.25 million. I don't expect Lohse to settle for that kind of cash this time around. But I think the Redbirds could sign him in a creative deal.
I suggest the Cardinals offer Lohse a one-year contract for the $13.3 million he would have received had he accepted the offer of a tendered contract from St. Louis in November. And I would structure it as part of an option deal.
The Birds could pay Lohse's $8.3 million now with a two-year mutual option for 2014-15. If the Cardinals decline the option, Lohse would get a $5 million buyout and the team would agree not to offer him another tendered contract so he wouldn't be tied to free agent compensation if he hits the open market again.
The deal is good for the Cardinals because it would improve the pitching in 2013. And it would give the Redbirds at least a little bit of protection if Adam Wainwright can't be signed to a contract extension. It's good for Lohse because he gets to play somewhere he is comfortable and with a team that has a chance to win it all this season. If both sides agree to the extension, he gets a very nice long term deal. If the options aren't picked up, he gets a nice pillow contract and will be in better position to hit the market at the end of the upcoming season.