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Jaime Garica's Apparent Recovery Likely Closes the Door on Potential Kyle Lohse St. Louis Encore

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COMMENTARY | Good news for St. Louis Cardinals southpaw Jaime Garcia is probably bad news for Kyle Lohse if he planned to put an end to his disastrous free agency by seeking a pillow contract from his most recent club.

Garcia is fighting his way back from a shoulder injury that limited him to 20 starts in 2012. After a week and a half of spring training, the St. Louis lefty said his arm feels even better than he hoped it would at this point. He's throwing at full strength and Garcia said that he expects to be able to start the season in full health.

Even with at least one rookie expected to make the Redbirds' starting five, Garcia has been the biggest question mark for the 2013 Cardinals rotation because when he's right he's a serious weapon. But it seemed as recently as a few weeks ago that his choice to rest his shoulder over the off-season rather than having surgery could put his season in serious jeopardy. If Garcia had to relent to having an operation in March or April, he'd likely miss the whole year.

The thought of Garcia being out, coupled with the fact that veteran Chris Carpenter is on the shelf indefinitely, might have put pressure on the Redbirds to offer Lohse at least a one-year deal. But with Garcia looking good and the team near the upper limits of its payroll budget, Lohse now seems like an awfully expensive insurance policy.

Reports last week that Lohse was on the verge of signing a contract with a new team late last week seem to be a ploy of agent Scott Boras to create some buzz around his client. But it hasn't worked with one potential new team after another disavowing any interest in Lohse.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals have all been mentioned as possible landing spots in recent days. The Baltimore Orioles were mentioned earlier in the off-season.

St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak has said he never will say never when it comes to the potential of adding a player. But he's been firm in his assessment that he doesn't see a scenario in which the winner of 30 games over the past two seasons would be back in St. Louis next season. And the sentiment was backed up by the fact that the Cardinals gave young pitcher Trevor Rosenthal Lohse's uniform number, 26, at the beginning of spring training.

Lohse would have to be the bargain of the century on a one-year deal to end up back in St. Louis -- a lot like when he signed with the Redbirds during 2008 spring training for $4.25 million after failing to land a long term deal. While he could have played for St. Louis this season for $13.3 if he would have accepted the Cardinals' qualifying offer, I can't see him getting half that much from the club now.

I feel terrible for Lohse. He's a nice guy and a stand up teammate who has filled a major role for the Redbirds over the past two years when Adam Wainwright and Carpenter missed an entire season each. I wish the team would have been able to sign him to an extension instead of Jake Westbrook. But there was no way of knowing when Westbrook got his one-year deal in the middle of last season that Lohse couldn't command a three or four-year contract on the open market. He wouldn't have considered accepting a short term deal at the time that might look pretty good under current conditions.

It looks like Lohse is going to have to wait until a club has a starter go down to a major injury before he finds a team willing to part with the required high draft pick as compensation for signing him to a contract. Otherwise, if he waits until after the draft in June, he could sign a deal with any club without them giving up a pick. That seems like an impossible outcome. But who would have guessed Lohse would still be available in late February?

Scott Wuerz has been a reporter and columnist at the Belleville News-Democrat, located in suburban St. Louis, since 1998. During that time he has covered three St. Louis Cardinals World Series appearances, the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star game and Mark McGwire's chase to break Roger Maris' home run record. He has penned the View From the Cheap Seats Cardinals fan blog for the News-Democrat since 2007.

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