Current market all too familiar for Lohse
Cardinals hurler faced similar difficulties in '08 as free agent
ST. LOUIS -- Kyle Lohse has watched a bizarre and puzzling baseball offseason with interest, curiosity, empathy and sympathy. Mostly, though, he's just glad it isn't him. Once was more than enough.
As the winter drags on and numerous prominent players remain unsigned, Lohse can't help thinking back a year, when he was in their shoes. Hoping to score the kind of contract that sets a man and his family up for life, Lohse instead remained unsigned through January -- and through February -- before finally signing with the Cardinals on March 14.
The deal he eventually agreed to was far from peanuts -- $4.25 million for one year. But it was far from what he had thought he might get, in terms of years and dollars.
For the Cardinals, it turned out to be a great deal. Lohse led the Cardinals in innings pitched (200) and wins (15), while posting a 3.78 ERA and 20 quality starts in his 33 outings. So it is not unreasonable to think that the Cardinals' experience with Lohse has played a part in this winter's sequence of events.
The Cardinals waited him out until they had all the leverage, then swooped in and signed a valuable player at a bargain price -- and then got their money's worth and then some.
While plenty of other factors -- the economic downturn foremost among them -- have come into play as well, some teams are also likely looking for the "next Kyle Lohse." They know that the later it gets, the more leverage they have. Lohse has heard his name in that context plenty of times this offseason.
"I've heard that [the 'next Kyle Lohse'] a lot," he said. "I don't know what that means exactly. I don't know if it's a compliment. I really don't know how to take that one."
Primarily, he's just glad he doesn't have to worry about it.
"I'm just trying not to remember where I was last year," he said. "It was a tough situation. You feel for the guys, because it obviously hasn't turned out the way a lot of them thought it would. I know how that feels.
"The other side of it is, it is a business. There are a lot other things that are going on in the economy. A lot of other people have worse things that are going on right now. I don't think anybody's complaining about it, but it does make life harder for some of those guys who are out there."
So when the opportunity came to re-up for a new four-year deal on the day the 2008 season ended, Lohse knew he wanted to do it.
"It's been a lot more of a stress-free offseason, that's for sure," Lohse said. "Last year at this time I didn't know where I was going to be. Having that security, knowing where I'm going to be the next four years has made family life a lot easier. I was pretty excited to be able to buy a house, stay here for a while. We're looking forward to it."
Lohse was so adamant about getting a deal done that he was able to coax an unusual change of course out of his agent. Scott Boras is known for a consistent unwillingness to agree to contracts before his clients test the open market. But Lohse prevailed upon Boras to pursue a different tack this time around.
"I went through that last year," he said. "That's why I really put a lot of pressure on all the parties involved to try to get something done as quick as we did. I don't miss the feelings that I had last year, so I was definitely glad that everything happened the way it did. With the way the economy and the free agent market have gone, it definitely looks like I made a good decision. I'm not going to look back and say, 'What if?'.
"Everybody came together, and I think that's what was best for me at the time. I needed to make a decision that fit what my family and I needed. We were comfortable, and we liked it here. We wanted to make it happen and it did."
Lohse knows that if he'd tested the market this offseason, he might be in the same straits as so many of his colleagues, including 2008 teammate Braden Looper.
"I guess I timed something right this time," he said. "It worked out good. Hopefully everybody's happy with it. I know I'm happy to be here and happy with what happened. The timing did work out to be really good. Who knows what would have happened, but it worked out good for me and hopefully for the Cardinals and their fans, too."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.