Fifteen years after St. Louis selected Lance Lynn in the 2028 MLB Draft, the 36-year-old is set to return to the franchise. Lynn will reportedly re-join the Cardinals, the team he spent his first six MLB seasons with, on a one-year pact with $10MM guaranteed and a club option for 2025. Here’s a closer look at Lance Lynn, plus how this move looks for the Cardinals’ 2024 plans.
A Look at Lynn
The past two seasons have been a roller-coaster for Lance Lynn.
We’ll start with 2022 when Lynn gave up 30 earned runs over 36 first-half innings after he spent the first months on the IL after surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right knee. In the second half, Lynn (2.52 ERA, 89:10 K:BB through 85.2 IP) was sensational.
This past year, Lynn proved to be extremely hittable despite an above-average 28.7% Whiff% rate.
The veteran starter, who spent time with both the White Sox and Dodgers in 2023, gave up a league-high 44 home runs last season, 28 of which came with the Sox. That figure was three homers ahead of ex-teammate Lucas Giolito.
That theme continued in the 2023 MLB Postseason when Geraldo Perdomo, Ketel Marte, Christian Walker, and Gabriel Moreno of the Diamondbacks all went deep off Lynn in the third inning of Game 3 in the 2023 NLDS. Two of those were off middle-middle four-seamers.
Despite the home run troubles, Lynn continued to get swing-and-misses off his stuff, including the four-seamer (31.4%). Lynn can throw the kitchen sink at hitters, as he can work off a two-seamer and four-seamer, along with a cutter, curveball, changeup, and slider.
There are some troubling numbers, though, from Lynn’s advanced metrics. Aside from the spike in Barrel% and average exit velocity, the 36-year-old’s fastball velocity has trended downward in recent years.
Two years ago, Lynn averaged 94.0 MPH with the fastball. But in 2023, that dipped down to 92.4 MPH. The 36-year-old’s IVB — a metric used to measure fastball ride — also dipped. In 2021, Lynn sat at 14.9 of IVB, but down to 13.5 in 2023. Neither were elite, but there’s a common theme here.
|Year||Four-Seam Fastball Velocity||HR off Four-Seamer||wOBA off Four-Seamer|
Still, Lynn’s hard-hit numbers were not terrible and he did still hit the edges generally well at times.
The signing of Lynn is an interesting one, for a few reasons.
One, the Cardinals did need a pitcher that can miss bats. St. Louis pitchers struck out 1,215 batters in 2023, second-lowest in the Majors behind the Rockies. The team’s Whiff% rate of 22.8% also ranked second-lowest this past season.
Lynn’s had a knack for getting hitters to chase out of the zone and miss and his command outside of 2023 has been good.
Second, not only does Lynn get a second chance in St. Louis, but the Cardinals came into the offseason with clear holes in the team’s 2024 rotation. The rotation for the Cards last year was subpar aside from Jordan Montgomery and Steven Matz later on in the year, as Miles Mikolas and the now-retired Adam Wainwright struggled.
Lynn, Mikolas, and Steven Matz are really the three locks in the rotation at the moment, though. Left-hander Matthew Liberatore is an option for 2024, but he’s yet to cement himself as a consistent contributor at the MLB level.
There was talk earlier in the offseason that St. Louis was interested in Aaron Nola and Sonny Gray, although Nola is now off the board. Given the holes in the Cardinals rotation that have yet to be filled, it’s likely that St. Louis may add another starter.