Lance Lynn gone for 2016? Cardinals have positioned themselves nicely to address the problem.
The Cardinals still have enough pitching to contend in 2016. Even without Lance Lynn. Even possibly without John Lackey. Thats not the issue here.
And that’s the beauty of the Cardinals.
Under general manager John Mozeliak, the Cardinals have accumulated so much pitching and spent their money so smartly that now, faced with a critical loss, they’re in an ideal position to do something dramatic.
This is a reminder why they’re arguably the most respected franchise on the planet, one that prides itself on doing virtually everything right.
Let’s not sugarcoat what Tuesday’s announcement that Lynn will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the 2016 season means. He pitched 175 innings and had a 3.03 ERA in 2015 on a staff that was the best in baseball by miles (2.94 ERA).
With Lackey exploring free agency, that’s 393 innings the Cardinals could be looking to replace.
Even with all their organizational depth—and there’s an impressive amount of young pitching—the Cardinals will now be shopping for pitching.
They probably were going to shop for pitching anyway in addition to attempting to re-sign outfielder Jason Hayward. They may have enough pitching to contend, but the bar is higher than that in St. Louis.
This is the franchise that has been to the postseason 12 times in 16 seasons and that has finished first three years in a row, averaging 96 victories.
So does that mean the Cardinals get outside their comfort zone and make a run at an elite free-agent pitcher, say, David Price or Zack Greinke?
Yes, it probably does.
Does that mean attempting to work out a multi-year contract with Lackey, who was extended a $15.8-million qualifying offer?
Yep, most likely.
Lackey’s 13th major league season might have been his best as he worked 218 innings and compiled a 2.77 ERA for a staff that was the best in the game.
The Cardinals are positioned to do these things because they don’t do them very often.
They’ve never signed a pitcher outside the organization to huge money. They’re prefer to develop—and then reward—their own guys.
They can do it now for a couple of reasons. One is that have only $65 million in guaranteed money committed for the 2017 season.
Another is they have a lucrative television contract about to kick into gear. As Mozeliak said, “We have resources.”
Here’s their current rotation: Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, Tyler Lyons. Wacha and Martinez are 24, Garcia 29, Lyons 27 and Wainwright 34.
There are few guarantees. Garcia hasn’t made more than 20 starts the last four seasons. Lyons has made 20 career starts total. Martinez is recovering from a shoulder issue.
But there’s also Marco Gonzales and Tim Cooney as depth. If Lackey is thrown into the mix, the rotation could be formidable.
Again, though, the bottom line is winning a World Series and because the Cardinals have spent conservatively, they’ve got the cash to spend on a free agent.
Re-signing outfielder Jason Hayward is also a priority, but Lynn’s surgery increases the need to add a starter. Mozeliak doesn’t rush into anything. He typically allows things to play out and gives his young guys every chance.
He believes that holding back the progress of a youngster is damaging to a franchise. When young players see those ahead of them get a crack–instead of being passed over–it’s added motivation.
But it’s also about winning. One free-agent starter will not blow up the Cardinal Way. That has endured too long and succeeded too much.
That’s why this franchise is special.