Next contract should be lucrative for Lohse

Next contract should be lucrative for Lohse

ST. LOUIS -- Kyle Lohse maintains that he's not thinking much beyond 2012, a season in which he believes he can help lead the Cardinals back to the postseason. If he did, however, Lohse would certainly find himself to be among the most attractive free-agent pitchers.

It's a reality that, while not regularly discussed publicly right now, will be scrutinized soon enough. Lohse's four-year, $41 million contract will end with this season, setting Lohse up for a big payday in the open market.

Though it seems to have gone largely unrecognized, Lohse is having one of the best seasons by a National League starter this year. No one has a better winning percentage than Lohse's .857 mark. He ranks second in the league with a 2.79 ERA and third with 148 1/3 innings pitched.

This all comes one year after he led the Cardinals in wins (14) and topped the rotation in ERA (3.39).

"It's been good to prove that I'm durable and healthy and maturing as a pitcher," Lohse said. "I'm figuring out how to be successful and consistent. I know I've put myself in a good spot so far, but I know we have two months left in the season at least. My main goal is to help us make a playoff run here. That's the biggest issue. If we take care of that, it must mean I did all right. And if I do all right, I'll be taken care of next year."

Whether he'll be taken care of by the Cardinals or another team will step in to lure him elsewhere is the unknown. Lohse has been here before. He became a free agent for the first time after the '07 season and eventually signed with St. Louis.

Lohse and the Cardinals then negotiated his current contract near the end of the 2008 season. That kept Lohse from testing his value on the open market a second time.

Lohse said he would be open to talking about another in-season extension, though the Cardinals have not yet approached him to open such conversations. What there also hasn't been -- and won't be, Lohse insists -- is any distraction.

"I've been through it before, and I'm pretty good at separating the business side from the personal side," Lohse said. "It's something that I think about at home, but it's not something where I am worried about it when I sit and think about it at home. I know whatever happens, it's going to be all right.

"From a personal standpoint, I've had a great time here. If I reach free agency, there are a lot of other teams out there that I'm sure wouldn't mind having me fit in there. If it comes to that, we'll see with what matches up my wants with theirs."

His wants, he added, do mesh well with the direction the Cardinals are going.

"Every year the focus is on winning," Lohse said. "We're not trying to develop something. We're trying to win. With my situation, that's what I'm looking for. If I do go to free agency, they will still be in the mix, I'm sure. But there will be other places to look, too."