Amid much speculation about whom the Cardinals would acquire in the free agent market, one of the dominoes has fallen in the shape of 36-year-old former Cardinal Lance Lynn. His contract is a one-year deal worth $10 million with a club option for 2025. Lynn struggled in 2023 with the Chicago White Sox, pitching to a 6.47 ERA in 119.2 innings. He improved after being dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers, cutting his season ERA to 5.73.
The Cardinals' signing of Lynn is a typical move for the team, and we all should have seen it coming. The Cardinals are searching for strikeouts, and Lynn did amass a respectable 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 2023. His most concerning stat was his league-leading 44 home runs surrendered. That number will likely fall in 2024 given Busch Stadium's homer-suppressing tendencies, along with the fact that it's very hard to give up that many dingers two years in a row.
With John Mozeliak already somewhat reneging on his comment that the Cardinals are looking for three starting pitchers, now leaning toward two, the big worry is that this will be the Cardinals' main move this offseason. Lynn is an innings eater; he threw 183.2 frames in his stints with the White Sox and Dodgers last year, but he is not a pitcher to build a staff around. His contract should still allow the team to find a decent free-agent arm, but if Lynn is the only substantial signing, fans will have a right to be furious.
An optimist could look at the move and acknowledge that now that a pitcher who reliably provides innings is on the staff, perhaps the Cardinals will go after a pitcher who is less of a sure thing but one with higher upside, such as the injury-prone Tyler Glasnow. It's worth considering as a possibility, but the risk-averse Cardinals seem likely to balk at someone like Glasnow. Michael Wacha, another former Cardinal, sadly seems to make more sense.
Lynn's bulldog mentality is something the Cardinals might be missing, but it's questionable how well that will gel with Oliver Marmol given the controversy between Marmol and Tyler O'Neill last season. Lynn certainly doesn't lack on the effort front, but his personality might not jibe with everyone in the dugout.
If Lynn ends up as the No. 2 or 3 starter, it will be a colossal failure of an offseason. Lynn cannot be one of the two difference-making starters that Mozeliak hinted at acquiring. A trade and another signing are likely the best options for the Cardinals at this point; Dylan Cease and Sonny Gray are potential options.
Lynn is not an exciting signing at this point in his career, and this is already among the most important offseasons in the team's modern history. If the Cardinals whiff on Lynn and don't make any more big trades or signings for pitching, the animosity toward the front office will be unlike anything St. Louis has seen in many fans' lifetimes. After this move, the pitchforks are being retrieved from the sheds.