The St. Louis Cardinals have one of best workhorse starters in baseball. The team should not let him hit free agency.
The St. Louis Cardinals have a buy-low opportunity to lock in one of baseball’s biggest workhorses. Recent reports suggest that Lance Lynn wants to be a St. Louis Cardinal for life, and it would behoove the team to take Lynn up on that wish.
Lynn recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he “hope[s] to be a Cardinal for life.” The 29-year old hurler with a moniker reminiscent of a country music star is the Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff. Lynn is tough, reliable, consistent, and the embodiment of a team player. He personifies the elusive Cardinal Way.
Lynn is also a damn good pitcher. Lynn wins about fifteen games a year (back off those who hate the “win” stat) while striking out a whopping 8.7/nine – better than Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. He also has a career ERA of 3.37 and an ERA+ of 112 (weighted down by his poorest performance of 94 in this category in 2013 – take away that year and his average ERA+ as a starter is around 121).
Did I mention that Lynn posts the aforementioned numbers while averaging 194 innings per year? When I see Lance Lynn, I see a pitcher who sits somewhere between John Lackey and Corey Kluber – but much closer to Kluber than to Lackey. Yet, for some reason, St. Louis Cardinals fans never seem to appreciate Lynn. He’s become the crying Jordan of our staff for some unknown reason.
So what would it take to sign Lynn to a long-term deal? The St. Louis Cardinals previously extended Lynn at the bargain-bin rate of three years and twenty-two million. That deal ends at the conclusion of this year.
Two comparable extensions for starting pitchers come to mind. First, Danny Duffy signed for 5 years and $65 million this past off-season at age 28 – he was set to be a free agent. In April of 2015, the Red Sox extended Rick Porcello for four years and $82.5 million.
Internally, the St. Louis Cardinals signed Mike Leake for five years and $80 million. Lynn is a better pitcher than Leake, so the cost will be higher. He is not as good as Waino, so he falls somewhere between the $80 and $100 million mark. A good contract for Lance would be a five-year, $85 million extension with a team option at $17 million in year six.
I know the haters will claim the contract I propose is an overpay. They will point to free agents such as Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Johnny Cueto, Michael Pineda, Chris Tillman, and Masahiro Tanaka. I get it. If you think the St. Louis Cardinals will actually pursue one of these guys, maybe they should not extend Lynn.
Lynn is the best of the next tier of available starters, however, and he will cost a lot less than the names above.
Oh, and let us not forget that the St. Louis Cardinals are loaded with dollars. Why not sign Lynn AND pursue top-tier free agents?
What if I told you that the Cardinals will extend Lynn and not pursue a top free agent starter, but that they would save those extra dollars to seriously pursue Manny Machado or Bryce Harper? I think the hometown discount from Lynn looks pretty good at that point.