Cardinals Place High Hopes In Kyle Lohse With Huge Contract

Derek CoffeltSenior Analyst ISeptember 29, 2008

On Monday the St. Louis Cardinals signed Kyle Lohse to a four-year, $41 million contract. The monster agreement also included a full no-trade clause that locks up the right-hander through 2012.

The Redbirds would have had Lohse land on the free agent market after the World Series ended this year, so they had to act quickly.

Lohse had originally signed a one-year, $4.25 million contract back in Spring Training. It was an unlikely coincidence that Lohse would pitch his best season of his career in 2008 for the Cardinals.

Going 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA, Lohse was extremely dominant throughout most of the first half of the season. The young right-hander also had an impressive 119 strikeouts to 49 walks ratio and pitched 200 innings.

However, several bad outings during the second half of the year drove up his ERA.

Some of those outings included a 11-hit, five earned performance against the Tigers on Jun 25. An eight-hit, seven earned outing against the Rockies on May 8. Another nine-hit, eight earned runs against the Cubs on May 3 and a 11-hit, seven earned performance against the Mets on July 27.

It begs the question that can Lohse stay this effective through the years to come with pitching as many innings as he had. Obvious slumps occur for any pitcher but Lohse didn't even test the market before signing with the Redbirds.

According to Lohse, he feels right at home in St. Louis.

"It's just one of those places where you feel comfortable and go out there and have success," Lohse said at a news conference on Monday afternoon at Busch Stadium.

"The way things turned out, I liked working with [Manager Tony La Russa] and [pitching coach Dave Duncan]. So it's just a good situation for me. I knew pretty early on that if things could work out this way, this was the way I wanted it to be."

The big time contract comes on the heels of fellow starter Chris Carpenter recovering from a nerve injury in his pitching arm. It's the same injury that cost Carpenter a spot in the 2004 postseason.

Maybe the signing was in response to the Cardinals not knowing what they will get in their ace, but it seems more out of desperation than of aggression.

Manager Tony La Russa knows all too well about his battered starting rotation.

"We've got some starter issues, with the free agents and the question on Carp, so [signing Lohse] would be a very significant move," La Russa said.

However, according to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, Lohse couldn't have fit in anywhere else.

"His age and his durability factored into how we came to this decision," said Mozeliak. "And more importantly, how he fit in with this team and how well-respected he was with his teammates. It seemed to be a perfect fit for us moving forward."

With Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Chris Carpenter, and Joel Pineiro all locked up through the foreseeable future, all that remains is to determine the last position in the rotation.

Possible solutions include Todd Wellemeyer who finished the season going 13-9 with a 3.71 ERA with a 134 strikeouts. Wellemeyer is eligible for arbitration, but not under contract.