The Curious Case of Lance Lynn

The St. Louis Cardinals allowed Lance Lynn to walk after he rejected their qualifying offer at the end of the 2017 season. It’s curious that the Cardinals seem so intent on parting ways with Lynn despite his stated interest in remaining in St. Louis at the beginning of the 2017, and the team’s apparent desire to add another starting pitcher this winter.

Now, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that the Cardinals will add another starter. However, they’ve been connected in trade rumors to the Tampa Bay Rays’ Chris Archer earlier this offseason. They’re also rumored to be interested in free agent Jake Arrieta, most recently with the Cubs. Another free agent name that may surface is Alex Cobb, who’s pitched with the Rays his entire career.

But if the Cardinals pursue one of these or another starting pitcher to fortify their rotation, then why didn’t they just sign Lynn before or during the 2017 season before he became a free agent? The chances the Cardinals approach Lynn for a new contract at this point are incredibly low.

Perhaps the Cardinals didn’t plan on being in this situation with their starting pitching just over a month away from the start of spring training. They’ve got five guys penciled in to be their starters in 2018, but there’s certainly a dose of uncertainty with the starting rotation.

That’s why it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the Cardinals are at least browsing the market for another arm. If they aren’t in on an ace-type figure like Arrieta or Yu Darvish, then a guy like Cobb might be the next name you hear St. Louis associated with.

Cobb reportedly turned down a 3 year, $42 million offer from the Cubs. Cobb’s agent initially sought an average annual value of $20 million for Cobb to begin the offseason, but it appears teams aren’t willing to go there just yet.

If the Cardinals make a play for Cobb and offer a bit more money than the Cubs did, the question must be asked: why not just lock up Lynn when you had the chance?

Lynn and Cobb had comparable seasons statistically in 2017, and career numbers even favor Lynn slightly in terms of rotation production. Lynn certainly has provided more innings per season than Cobb. An innings-eater may be what the Cardinals are looking for considering the combination of youth and health concerns in their projected rotation.

Since the saga of free agent talk with Lance Lynn began last spring, not much of it has made rational sense. Lynn wanted to stay initially, but the Cardinals didn’t make a play to extend his contract when they had the opportunity.

There was a possibility Lynn would be traded at the trade deadline last summer, but that didn’t happen either. Whenever he was asked, Lynn said he was open to contract negotiations but that the organization hadn’t approached him.

Perhaps it was the Cardinals’ intent to let Lynn go to pave the way for their young starters, like Luke Weaver, to get a shot. Weaver will get his chance this season, but after Jack Flaherty struggled in his first major-league cameo last September, Weaver is presumably the only under-25 starter that the Cardinals feel comfortable inserting in their rotation to begin the year.

The good news is the Cardinals still have pitching depth to cover innings. Don’t forget about Tyler Lyons and John Gant, who could each make spot starts or appear for multiple innings at a time out of the bullpen.

But if the Cardinals add a starting pitcher before spring training, you have to wonder what would be going through Lance Lynn’s mind.

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