Friday night was the deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to prospective free agents. The 13.3 million qualifying offer is basically the offer of a one year contract that allows the team who offered it to receive compensation should the player chose to sign elsewhere.
St. Louis had two players who were eligible for the qualifying offer, Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman.
Friday, the Cardinals made a qualifying offer to free agent pitcher Lohse, but Lohse is not expected to accept the offer. Berkman was not made an offer and became an unrestricted free agent.
If Lohse accepts the offer, he would be signed for the 2013 season at that price. However, Lohse is more than likely looking for something longer term and with a higher annual dollar value.
Because the Cardinals made Lohse a qualifying offer, whomever Lohse signs with as a free agent, that team will lose their first round draft pick for the 2013 June draft. In addition, the Cardinals will gain a sandwich pick (a pick between rounds one and two) as compensation for losing Lohse.
Lohse led the Cardinals in 2012 with career bests in ERA (2.89) and in innings pitched (211). In addition, Lohse also had career highs in wins (16) and strikeouts (143). Lohse was second on the Cardinals in wins and third in strikeouts in 2012.
St. Louis returns several starters for the 2013 season. Chris Carpenter made an amazing comeback to finish the 2012 season. He should be even healthier for 2013. Adam Wainwright missed all of 2011 with Tommy John surgery, but got stronger as the 2012 season went on. Wainwright led the Cardinals with 184 strikeouts. Having both Wainwright and Carpenter back for 2013 gives the Redbirds back their aces.
Jake Westbrook finished his second full season with St. Louis with a record of 13-11. The 13 wins were the most by Westbrook since he had back to back 15 win seasons in 2005 and 2006. Westbrook signed a new one year deal for the 2013 season back in August. That deal also includes a mutual option for the 2014 season.
With three of the five starting rotation spots filled, the Cardinals have several players left to battle it out for the final two spots. Jaime Garcia and Lance Lynn both spent large chunks of time in the rotation last year. Garcia missed time because of injuries while Lynn spent some time in the bullpen.
Making 29 starts, Lynn led the Cardinals with an 18 win season in his first full season in the majors. Garcia, regressed a bit after posting back to back 13 win seasons in 2010 and 2011. Garcia started just 20 games and won only 7 of them while pitching on 121.2 innings
Also in the mix for the final two spots will be Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller.
Kelly made 16 starts for the Cardinals between June 10 and Oct. 2. Kelly picked up his first career win on June 22 (his third start) in Kansas City. The Cardinals beat the Royals 11-4 that day. Kelly finished with a 5-7 record while striking out 75 batters in 102 innings pitched and compiling a 3.53 ERA.
Miller pitched in 6 games and started just once. He picked up his first major league win on Sept. 16 against the Dodgers. For the season, Miller was 1-0 with 16 strikeouts in 13.2 innings pitched. Miller allowed 9 hits and a pair of runs to sport a 1.32 ERA.
Even with Lynn, Garcia, Kelly, and Miller, I would like to see the Cardinals sign a free agent starter. I have a specific starter in mind as well – Dan Haren.
Haren is a proven commodity. He was drafted by the Cardinals in 2001. He pitched two seasons in St. Louis before being dealt (in the 2004 offseason) to Oakland in the Mark Mulder deal. Since then, Haren has posted double digit victory totals in eight consecutive seasons while winning 113 games. The 2012 season was the first time since 2004 that Haren did not pitch over 200 innings. Yes, he did miss some time with a bad back, but he still struck out 142 batters in 176.2 innings.
The Angels declined Haren’s 15.5 million option on Friday making him a free agent. The Cardinals would lose nothing on bringing Haren back to St. Louis. Signing Haren could also help to make up for when the Redbirds lose Lohse. Having a 1-2-3 of Carpenter, Wainwright, Haren would give the Cardinals one of the top rotations in the National League. And everyone knows you need good pitching and deep pitching for a long MLB season.