The St. Louis Cardinals have reached an agreement on a three-year contract worth $22 million with pitcher Lance Lynn, as first reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The length of the deal has since been confirmed by the team in a press release.
The deal, which buys out the remaining arbitration years for the hurler, does not cover any free-agent years and does not contain any options, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Extending a young player is a key component of roster and cost control for many teams, and the Cardinals are no different. The process becomes a gamble as the team tries to find the perfect dollar amount that will save it money if the player continues to produce yet is not a huge financial risk if he should falter. The reported deal here seems to follow that mindset.
Lynn has eclipsed the ever-important 200-inning threshold in each of his last two seasons. He has 48 wins to his credit over the last three seasons. He averages just over eight hits, just over three walks and more than eight strikeouts per nine innings in his career. Including the postseason, Lynn has pitched 18 consecutive games without surrendering more than three earned runs or pitching less than 5.2 innings.
He may not be a powerhouse, but he has certainly shown that he understands the game and knows how to succeed. Behind Adam Wainwright and surrounded by impressive young arms, Lynn continues to be the backbone of the rotation. If consistency is the key to starting pitching, Lynn has found his niche.
Matt Swartz broke down the arbitration case for Lynn over at MLB Trade Rumors earlier this offseason and predicted the hurler was in line for a record-setting $5.5 million payday. Another season like the last two, and that number would continue to balloon through the arbitration process. Should Lynn continue to produce at his recent pace, however, the new deal will not pay him nearly the amount he was set to earn through the process.
That said, Lynn could have reached his peak already and may begin to come back down to earth in the next few seasons. A subpar season or a season lost to injury would drastically impact his earning ability as he continued through the arbitration process. In that scenario, he stands to make a lot more money under the reported contract than he would going year-to-year on arbitration.
The arbitration process itself is not a desirable process for players and teams. It can create bad blood and trust issues as the negotiations drag on. The team will produce facts that prove that the player is not worth the amount he is requesting. The player will present evidence as to why he is worth far more than the team wants to award him.
It is a process that teams try to avoid as much as possible. The Cardinals have not reached an arbitration hearing with a player since 1999.
Ultimately, Lynn was rewarded with guaranteed money for the next three years for his performance. Meanwhile, Lynn also knows that he will reach free agency at the age of 30, potentially setting himself up for a very large payday in the future.
The team now knows exactly how much money will be spent on the hurler over the next three years, making payroll more certain. If Lynn continues to produce the way he has, that amount of money is an impressive savings for the club.
It is not often that a deal is produced between a player and a team that seems completely mutually beneficial. In this case, however, it seems both the team and the player have accepted some risk, some reward and a potentially big future.