St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak isn’t the type to panic.
So don’t expect him to rush to the phones to find a band-aid to fill the hole in the 2016 starting rotation created when Lance Lynn had to have Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow Tuesday.
While the people who buy tickets and watch games on television panic at this sort of news, I wouldn’t be surprised if the people in the offices at Busch Stadium already know what they’re going to do about this situation.
Just because fans and the media learned about the injury to the workhorse starter Tuesday that doesn’t mean the Cardinals weren’t aware of a major issue way back when Lynn was skipped over in the playoffs for a short rest start by John Lackey - or when the team decided to extend Lackey a qualifying offer last week.
That being said, I hope the answer isn’t to give in to Lackey’s reported desire for a three-year contract. If he wants to take the Redbirds up on their qualifying offer and play here in 2016 for a handsome, $15.8 million, fine. But this is a one-year problem. Let’s not commit to pay a 37-year-old pitcher for three years to shore up the short term.
I doubt if the loss of Lynn for a year will influence the Cardinals in their interest in top free agent starter David Price.
They’re not going to go out and spend nine figures on a guy on a whim.
But if previous rumors that they’d like to add Price to their stable of hurlers are true, this could underline his name on their off-season to-do list.
Price has two things the Cardinals need: 1) He’s a legitimate ace who could either give the team a second dominant pitcher to pair with Adam Wainwright for tough series and the playoffs and 2) He’s a durable guy a team full of pitchers with medial reports as long as their arms could use for stability. Wainwright’s last two season have been marred by injuries to his elbow and Achilles. In 2011 he missed the whole year with Tommy John surgery. Michael Wacha missed much of 2014 with a shoulder problem, Carlos Martinez currently has a shoulder problem and I don’t have enough space here to cover all the problems Jaime Garcia has had.
(I know Price has a lousy record in the playoffs. But that’s a small sample size compared to his excellent overall career numbers. He’d likely benefit from playing in front of a strong defensive team like the Cardinals. So I think his previous post season record can largely be thrown out the window.)
There are a lot of reasons to believe Price could be a big boost for the Cardinals for many years. While he is going to be plenty expensive, I’d rather see the Birds give a 29-year-old pitcher eight years for $160 million than give a 37-year-old righty $50-60 million for three years. Especially if a draft pick comes back to St. Louis for Lackey when he signs elsewhere.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense for St. Louis to search for a middling answer. Why pay a guy like Mike Leake $50 million over four years when he’s going to be a middle of the rotation guy who will be surplus when Lynn comes back.
If the team signed Price, it could restore Lynn to the middle or back of the rotation when he was ready and let go of Garcia to help offset some of the annual cost.
Either the Cardinals should hope Lackey takes the qualifying offer or try to sign life-long Redbirds fan and lefty veteran Mark Buehrle to a one-year deal for a short term fix, they should try to make a big splash at the front of the rotation if anticipation of future playoff battles with the Cubs, Dodgers and Mets dominant starters by finding an ace or else they should fill the hole from within with the likes of Tyler Lyons or Tim Cooney.