April 17, 2024

Right-hander Lance Lynn and the St. Louis Cardinals agreed on a one-year contract with a club option that guarantees $10 million and reunites the 36-year-old with the team that drafted him a decade and a half ago, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN on Monday.

Lynn, who spent the first six seasons of his career with the Cardinals, has bounced around to five teams since leaving St. Louis and returns after a season in which he posted an elite strikeout rate but struggled with the home run ball.

The deal, which includes performance bonuses and escalators and is pending a physical, could be worth up to $26 million if the Cardinals exercise the option, sources said.

With the Chicago White Sox, Lynn struck out 144 in 119⅔ innings but allowed 28 home runs and posted a 6.47 ERA. The Los Angeles Dodgers nonetheless dealt for him at the trade deadline, and he was better there, posting a 4.36 ERA but still yielding 16 home runs in 64 innings.

The Cardinals entered the winter seeking three starting pitchers to fill out a beleaguered rotation whose 5.08 ERA was the fifth worst in baseball. They return Miles Mikolas and Steven Matz, along with young left-handers Matthew Liberatore, Zack Thompson and Drew Rom, all of whom started games to varying degrees of effectiveness last season.

St. Louis’ poor pitching led to the team’s worst full season (71-91) since 1990.

Starting pitching is the most plentiful commodity available in this winter’s free agent class, with Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery — who pitched for the Cardinals last year before they traded him to the Texas Rangers — all available. There are also front-line pitchers on the trade market, with Tampa Bay‘s Tyler Glasnow, Chicago’s Dylan Cease and Milwaukee‘s Corbin Burnes among them.

The Cardinals’ glut of position players could position them for a potential deal. Outfielder Tyler O’Neill is a year from free agency, and outfielder Dylan Carlson and super-utilityman Tommy Edman have been discussed in trade talks.

Over his 12-year career, Lynn is 136-95 with a 3.74 ERA after being chosen by St. Louis out of Mississippi with the 39th overall pick in 2008. A reliable innings eater, he has thrown 1,889 innings, struck out 1,906 and walked 660 while allowing 215 home runs.

The Cardinals on Monday also brought back another former player — infielder Daniel Descalso — to serve as bench coach in 2024. Descalso, who played for St. Louis from 2010 to 2014, replaces Joe McEwing, who is now the special assistant to president of baseball operations John Mozeliak.

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