ST. LOUIS – Desperate to restock their pitching staff with more swing-and-miss stuff and hurlers who can work deep into games, the Cardinals on Monday dug into their more successful past and agreed to a deal with 2011 World Series champion Lance Lynn. The club made the move official on Tuesday, when it also signed right-hander Kyle Gibson to a one-year deal.
Lynn, who will turn 37 on May 12, was a first-round Draft pick by the Cardinals in 2008 and pitched for them from 2011-17. He went 1-1 during his rookie season, but he was 2-0 in 10 appearances in the playoffs that year, with the victories coming in the National League Championship Series and during the club’s World Series defeat of the Rangers.
The deal with Lynn, who was 13-11 with a 5.73 ERA in 32 starts with the White Sox and Dodgers this season, is worth approximately $11 million, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported. There are also performance incentives in the deal that could bring its total value to $14 million, and it includes an option for 2025 that could make the deal worth $25 million overall, per Heyman.
The Lynn deal comes one day after right-handed pitcher Aaron Nola signed a seven-year, $172 million contract to remain with the Phillies. Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told KMOX on Sunday morning that although the club had preliminary discussions with Nola’s agent about bringing the pitcher to St. Louis, “this isn’t the worst day in the world by any means with this [Nola] announcement, and it isn’t that surprising.”
Following a 71-91 finish and the club’s first last-place finish in the division in 33 years, the Cardinals figure to be especially active in the free-agent and trade markets for pitching. St. Louis entered the offseason with just two established starters signed for 2024 – Miles Mikolas and lefty Steven Matz. The Cardinals also refused to tender arbitration to veteran right-handers Dakota Hudson and Jake Woodford last week, making both free agents.
Thin on pitching heading into the 2023 season, the Cardinals struggled on the mound and ultimately dealt five pitchers – including starters Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty – before the Trade Deadline. The Cards finished with baseball’s 24th-ranked overall ERA (4.79), 26th-ranked rotation ERA (5.07) and 23rd-ranked relief ERA (4.47).
Enter Lynn, who has had a record of .500 or better in all 12 of his MLB seasons. After grinding through 21 starts with the rebuilding White Sox at the start of 2023, Lynn seemed revived by a trade to the Dodgers, going 7-2 with a 4.36 ERA over his 11 regular-season starts with L.A.
While Lynn struck out 191 batters over 183 2/3 innings last season, giving up home runs proved to be a major problem for him; opposing hitters clubbed 44 homers off the right-hander in 2023. The long ball remained an issue for Lynn in the playoffs, when the D-backs reached Lynn for six hits and four solo home runs over 2 2/3 innings in Game 3 of the NLDS.
Lynn’s best season as a Cardinal came in 2012, when he went 18-7 with a 3.78 ERA over 35 outings (29 starts). As recently as 2019, Lynn went 16-11 with 246 strikeouts while pitching for the Rangers.