This will probably come as cold comfort to Cardinals fans just a day after the team missed out on landing Aaron Nola, but St. Louis has landed the first of what figures to be multiple starting pitching additions this offseason. Jon Heyman reports that the team has reunited with veteran right-hander Lance Lynn on a one-year, $10 million deal that also includes a club option for 2025.
Lance Lynn agrees to Cardinals deal, 1 year plus option. Guarantees $10M in 2024, plus $1M buyout on option. Can be worth about $26M over 2 with escalators. Pluses: Started with Cards, lives nearby in southern Illinois. Pending physical tomorrow.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 20, 2023
Cardinals starters pitched to a 5.07 ERA in 2023, fifth-worst in all of baseball and ahead of only the Rockies, A’s, Reds and Royals. If St. Louis had any hope of contending in 2024 — and there’s still more than enough position-player talent to do so, despite their last-place finish this year — fixing the rotation was items No. 1-5 on GM John Mozeliak’s offseason to-do list.
How much Lynn will help achieve that goal, however, remains a very open question. The righty was among the more reliable starters in the game from 2019 to 2022, pitching to a 3.42 ERA (134 ERA+) with a 10 K/9. But things totally fell apart in 2023: He posted a 6.47 ERA in 21 starts for the White Sox and then was only marginally better for the Dodgers post-trade deadline, pitching to a 4.36 mark (100 ERA+) and getting shelled by the Diamondbacks in his lone postseason appearance. His strikeout and whiff numbers remained as healthy as ever, but his mistakes got absolutely crushed: Lynn’s 44 homers lead the entire league.
The Cardinals will have to be hoping that they can help the 36-year-old find his prior form. St. Louis is very familiar with Lynn, drafting him in the first round back in 2008 and watching him blossom into a mainstay of their rotation from 2011 to 2017. But while his four-seamer remains a potent weapon, he simply didn’t offer a ton of ways to get hitters out last season, and if the Dodgers pitching factory couldn’t unlock him, it’s hard to believe anyone can — especially given his age and decreasing velocity. This is certain to be just the first of many moves for Mozeliak and Co. this winter, and you could take far worse fliers than a guy who strikes people out and generally stays healthy, but without multiple more reliable additions, St. Louis will likely wind up asking too much of Lynn next season.