The St. Louis Cardinals began the retooling of their starting rotation Monday by agreeing to a one-year deal with Lance Lynn that brings the right-hander back to the club that drafted him, a person with knowledge of the contract said.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is pending a physical, said the 36-year-old is guaranteed $11 million. Lynn will make $10 million for the upcoming season. The deal includes a club option for 2025 with a $1-million buyout.
The last time Lynn was on the mound, he gave up four homers in a single inning to the Diamondbacks in the divisional round of the playoffs. Arizona went on to win 4-2 and clinch a three-game sweep that sent them to the N.L. Championship Series.
The Dodgers declined his $18-million option earlier this month.
His performance in the NLDS was a microcosm of a disappointing year for Lynn, who had been traded from the White Sox at the deadline but couldn’t find his footing in Los Angeles. He allowed 44 homers between the two clubs, the sixth-most in a season in MLB history, not including the home runs that he allowed in the playoffs.
Lynn finished the season 13-11 with a 5.73 ERA, the worst by nearly a full run of his big league career.
The relatively low-risk deal makes sense for the Cardinals, though. They are familiar with Lynn after picking him 39th overall in the 2008 draft, shepherding him to the majors three years later -- he got a World Series ring in 2011 -- and watching him land in the All-Star Game while winning 72 games during six seasons in St. Louis.
Lynn also spent time with the Twins, Yankees and Rangers before the past couple of seasons in Chicago and Los Angeles.
The Cardinals, who finished 71-91 for their worst record since 1990, have been expected to heavily pursue starting pitchers in free agency. Their rotation had a dismal 5.08 ERA last season, fifth-worst in the majors, and the only entrenched starters under contract for the upcoming season are right-hander Miles Mikolas and left-hander Steven Matz.
“I think for us, our checklist is starter, starter, and then let’s see what we look like,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said at the recent winter meetings. “We do have some position-player talent and depth there. So, we also do want to explore the trade market just in case we aren’t successful in the other one.”
If nothing else, Lynn has been proven to be a durable arm capable of absorbing some of the innings that Mozeliak will need out of his refreshed rotation. Lynn has eclipsed 200 innings three times, pitched more than 180 between the White Sox and Dodgers last season, and he needs just 11 more to reach 2,000 for his career.
The Cardinals also made some off-the-field moves Monday, bringing on Lynn’s old teammate and former Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso as their bench coach. He is replacing Joe McEwing, who is becoming Mozeliak’s special assistant.