The St. Louis Cardinals made a 1 year, $13.3 million qualifying offer to Kyle Lohse today, the final day to make such an offer. The Cardinals had to make an offer in order to receive a compensatory draft pick if Lohse opts to sign with another team this offseason, which he is expected to do. Either way, Lohse now has until next Friday to accept the offer if he wants to return to the Cardinals for 2013.
The qualifying offer concept is a change under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement which replaces the old Type A/Type B free agent compensation system. Something that I’m sure relieves General Manager John Mozeliak, who told the United Cardinal Bloggers in September about his indecision about offering arbitration to Octavio Dotel last November. He said he got a mystery call from baseball that they were simply going to give them the compensatory pick without the need for arbitration and he said, “Sweet!”
The qualifying offer is determined by the average of the top-125 salaries in baseball from the previous season. That means a $13.3 million average from the 2012 for qualifying offers this offseason.
Lohse, 34, is expected to net himself a multiyear contract worth roughly $15 million per season. He is coming off a four year, $41 million contract with the Cardinals where he spent the first two seasons dealing with an injury that is rare in baseball, so it was misdiagnosed. In the final two years, Lohse was the best pitcher on the St. Louis staff and was easily one of the top pitchers in the National League. In those two years he posted a 3.11 ERA over 63 starts and just shy of 400 innings. He posted a 30-11 record.
Lohse, who was interested in returning to the Cardinals, likely pitched himself out of a return with his success. Instead of working on an extension with Lohse, they picked up the option of Jake Westbrook, paying him nearly half of what Lohse is expected to get per year in his next contract. With the return of Chris Carpenter to the rotation and a potential payroll squeeze in 2013, someone had to be the odd man out. It just happened to be Lohse who had his contract expire at the wrong time.
The other free agent the Cardinals have is Lance Berkman, who did not receive a qualifying offer. His future, in general, is unknown. Mozeliak said in October that he did not see a role for Berkman in St. Louis next season. Houston GM Jeff Luhnow, where Berkman played the first 12 years of his career, said he will contact Berkman to gauge his interest in returning to the Astros for their first season in the American League.
Making $12 million this year, Berkman, 36, struggled to stay on the field. He appeared in a grand total of 32 games for the Cardinals this year hitting .259/.381/.444 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI. On April 22nd he was placed on the disabled list with a calf injury. Then again a month later, he went on the disabled list again with a a torn meniscus in his knee. He would have surgery and returned in mid-July. After getting hit by a pitch near the incision, the knee flared up again and he went on the DL again in early August. He was given one final at bat to a standing ovation by the St. Louis crowd in the season finale against Cincinnati.
Berkman has said that he will consider retirement if he doesn’t get a satisfactory offer from a team. He will likely be looking for an opportunity to play regularly and a team that is expected to make a trip to the postseason. I don’t think salary is a big concern to him. He did say, however, that if he got an offer from Seattle for the minimum, he would turn that down.