The Cardinals and the law Lance Lynn They agree to a one-year contract with a club option for the 2025 season, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Lynn, a client of Headline Sports Group, will earn around $10 million for the contract, which she is still pending completing a physical. Jon Heyman of the New York Post places the guarantee at $11MM, taking into account that there is a $10MM salary in 2024 and a $1MM buyout in the 2025 option. The contract, which contains $3 million of potential incentives in 2024, can reach a maximum of 24 million dollars for two seasons. That would imply a value of $11 million in the 2025 option.
It’s a homecoming for Lynn, 36, whom the Cardinals selected with the 39th overall pick in the 2008 draft. The 6’5″ right-hander spent the first six seasons of his career in St. Louis, solidifying as a quality major league player by pitching 977 2/3 innings with a 3.38 ERA. Lynn hit free agency immediately after that hot streak, but did so only after the shakiest strikeout, walk and home run rates of his career in 2016. He turned down a qualifying offer from the Cardinals that offseason and found a lukewarm market, and ultimately landed with the Twins on a one-year deal that was agreed upon after spring training began.
Things in Minnesota didn’t go so well, but Lynn recovered somewhat after a trade with the Yankees and revitalized his career in a subsequent four-year stint between the Rangers and White Sox. From 2019 to 2022, Lynn was one of the best and most durable starters in the American League. He pitched 571 innings with a 3.42 ERA in that time, hitting 26.8% of his opponents against a 6.2% walk rate. That success came within the framework of a three-year, $30 million deal originally agreed to with Texas and a two-year, $38 million extension signed with Chicago following a trade with the ChiSox.
The second season of that extension, the most recent year, marked the worst season of Lynn’s long career. Lynn was the pitcher most likely to hit home runs in 2023, allowing an average of 2.16 long balls per nine frames (44 total). He stayed healthy and consumed plenty of innings, totaling 183 2/3 frames between the Sox and Dodgers, but his 5.73 ERA on the year was the second-highest of any qualified starter, ahead of only Kansas City. Jordan Lyles.
Despite the worst performance of his career, Lynn will still earn an eight-figure guarantee. The Cardinals, who need at least three starting pitchers this winter, surely value Lynn’s durability and the number of innings he can contribute. They’re also likely to be encouraged by the fact that even for all his home run woes, Lynn still posted an above-average strikeout rate of 23.8% and a solid 8.3% walk rate. The veteran right-hander’s 12.9% swinging strike rate also remained well above the league average for a starting pitcher, and he also induced chases on pitches off the plate at a slightly above-average rate of 32.4. %. Lynn still has good spin on his four-seamer and his cutter as well.
While there are many positive indicators, there is no way to sugarcoat the final results in 2023. It was a bad season for Lynn from start to finish, and he will need to rebound substantially to have a significant impact on the Cardinals rotation. Given the Cardinals’ dire need for help on the starting staff, St. Louis fans understandably expected a clearer improvement with their first addition.
That said, the Cardinals still have at least two holes to fill on staff. If Lynn ends up being the “third” of three additions to the rotation this offseason, the overall picture will improve a lot. Adding a durable inning-eater who can still miss bats and limit walks to fill out the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation makes perfect sense, particularly on a one-year deal with a club option. However, if the team’s next additions are more along the same lines, it will be fair to question the general direction of the offseason. As with all transactions at the beginning of the offseason, it’s impossible to get the full context; The big picture will be much clearer come spring training.
Lynn’s return to the Cardinals brings his projected 2024 payroll to just over $159 million, according to Roster Resource. The Cardinals closed the 2023 season with a payroll in the range of $178 million, and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak has indicated that he does not expect payroll to increase substantially. That, however, is not an indication that the Cardinals only have about $20 million of flexibility to work with. The Cards offered contracts to both Dylan Carlson and Tyler O’Neill – which present themselves as obvious business candidates.
MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects O’Neill will make $5.5 million in 2024, while Carlson will make $1.8 million. Additionally, the Cardinals shed several significant salaries at the 2023 trade deadline, but had been budgeting for a larger payroll prior to their summer sale. In all likelihood, there’s something closer to $40 million to work with (even after agreeing to terms with Lynn) and that figure could change a bit more depending on the outcome of various trade scenarios.