The theme of free company to date is returning to at least one’s origins. A day after Aaron Nola re-upped with the Phillies, Lance Lynn signed a one-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, the group that drafted him within the first spherical in 2008. Lynn’s deal can pay him $10 million in 2024, with a 2025 membership choice for $11 million that comes with a $1 million buyout, and $3 million in incentives. That brings the whole assure to $11 million and the whole potential worth of the contract to $24 million.
Lynn received a World Sequence with St. Louis as a rookie in 2011, made his first All-Star group in 2012, and in whole pitched six years and practically 1,000 innings with the membership earlier than leaving as a free agent after the 2017 season.
A lot has occurred since then.
Lynn had a run of about three and a half years with the Rangers and White Sox by which he was among the finest pitchers within the American League, ending fifth in Cy Younger voting in 2019, then sixth in 2020, and third in 2021. A knee damage price Lynn the primary two and a half months of the 2022 marketing campaign and since then, it’s been a little bit of a tough trip for the large right-hander.
In his remaining months in Chicago, Lynn posted a 6.47 ERA in 119 2/3 innings, prompting a commerce to the Dodgers, whose pitching workers was riddled by accidents. Solely 4 Dodgers threw 70 or extra innings in 2023, and of these 4, solely Bobby Miller and Clayton Kershaw (barely) had been wholesome sufficient to pitch within the playoffs.
If there’s one factor Lynn might be counted on to do, it’s take his activate the mound. Whilst his title turned a metonym for giving up residence runs, Lynn was twenty third within the league in innings pitched in 2023. He’s tenth in innings pitched over the previous 5 seasons, and ninth in innings pitched over the previous 10 seasons, regardless of (in contradiction to my earlier level, I’ll concede) shedding all of 2016 to Tommy John surgical procedure.
With the Dodgers, Lynn’s outcomes had been inconsistent. His 7-2 report with a 4.36 ERA in 11 begins appeared good on the floor, however he additionally surrendered an appalling variety of residence runs. Sixteen dingers in simply 64 innings for the Dodgers introduced Lynn’s whole on the yr to 44, tied for the sixth-most ever in a single season. On a per-inning foundation, Lynn in 2023 was the second-most homer-prone pitcher in main league historical past. (For a certified starter in a full-length common season.)
The one pitcher to permit extra residence runs per inning than Lynn was 2000 Jose Lima, who performed his residence video games in what was then Enron Subject on the peak of the steroid period. That’s not the form of offensive surroundings a pitcher needs to duplicate.
Lynn is aware of that, which is why his temporary tenure with the Dodgers was fairly experimental. Lynn, who has deployed each form of fastball beneath the solar at one level or one other, went strictly four-seamer/curveball in his first begin. Then in September he junked the curveball and went again to the four-seamer/cutter/sinker mixture that labored so nicely for him in Texas.
After I wrote about Lynn’s first begin, I referenced an interview I had with him in early 2021, by which he talked about how shifting from the first-base facet of the rubber to the third-base facet had unlocked his decrease physique and reworked him as a pitcher. How bizarre did issues get for Lynn in 2023? Properly, after a three-stretch begin by which he allowed eight residence runs in 15 innings, he undid that change, sliding over towards first base for his remaining 4 begins of the common season.
That appeared to work for some time, as Lynn pitched by 5 innings in every of these appearances, permitting only one residence run per begin, and finishing six innings or extra with two earned runs or fewer in three of these 4 outings. Nevertheless it wasn’t all excellent news; Lynn, who had a stroll charge of simply 3.7% in 2022, walked 11 in 24 innings towards simply 19 strikeouts. On the entire, Lynn struck out simply 47 batters in 64 innings as a Dodger, a regarding quantity for a pitcher who’s spent his complete profession inside spitting distance of a strikeout per inning.
After which he bought the beginning in Recreation 3 of the NLDS towards Arizona — nothing underscores the Dodgers’ pitching scarcity greater than buying and selling for a man with an ERA within the sixes, watching him hand over two residence runs a begin, and sending him on the market for the playoffs. Lynn didn’t stroll anyone, however he allowed 4 solo residence runs in a single inning, and took the loss.
So why are the Cardinals giving Lynn an eight-figure assure?
Two causes: To begin with, one yr and $10 million is absolutely the entry-level, Kirkland Signature-brand worth of main league beginning pitching as of late. Final winter, Kyle Gibson, who had nothing resembling Lynn’s skilled observe report, bought that from the Orioles, who would slightly dump a bag of money into Baltimore Harbor than spend it on main league free brokers.
If Lynn is cooked, and that’s a definite risk for a 36-year-old who’s coming off his lowest common fastball velocity in six seasons, the Cardinals are solely out the minimal wager required to play at this desk. If he’s not cooked, they’ve the choice to maintain him round for one more season at an identical worth.
And as jarring as this could be for these of us who’re sufficiently old to recollect Dave Duncan turning random guys off the road into 15-game winners, the Cardinals want assist in the rotation. Not simply to win, however to maintain the road shifting.
On the commerce deadline, St. Louis removed Jordan Montgomery, in addition to Jack Flaherty, who has struggled towards massive league competitors ever since he was kidnapped by the Monstars in 2022. Adam Wainwright retired. Dakota Hudson, who had virtually precisely as many strikeouts as Lynn had residence runs in 2023, bought non-tendered.
That leaves a rotation fronted by Miles Mikolas. To this point, so good. Mikolas is sort of dependable. After that: Steven Matz, Zack Thompson, and Matthew Liberatore. Thompson and Liberatore have made 21 main league begins between them, ever; Lynn made 32 final yr alone. And if you happen to’re relying on Matz to throw 150 innings subsequent yr, I actually don’t know what to let you know.
The Cardinals do have fairly a little bit of beginning pitching depth within the higher minors, of which Liberatore isn’t too far faraway from being a component himself. Connor Thomas will virtually actually function within the massive leagues subsequent yr, and Gordon Graceffo and Michael McGreevy have the potential to be far more than rotation depth. (I’m rooting for McGreevy specifically, as the previous UCSB star very practically shares a reputation with fictional Minnesota Twins pitcher Mike McGrevey of Little Huge League. If McGreevy has any form of main league profession, will probably be superb for me personally, from a joke-writing perspective.)
So, yeah, there’s an excessive right-tail consequence the place Matz stays wholesome, the youngsters all come up and shove, and Lynn finally ends up being surplus to necessities. Nevertheless it’s more likely that the Cardinals will find yourself needing quite a lot of assist to eat up the 1,200-odd innings they’ve left over as soon as Mikolas is finished. It doesn’t matter what he throws, regardless of what number of residence runs he offers up within the course of, Lynn is well-suited to fill that want.