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Buffa: So long, Lance Lynn, a throwback to old-school pitching

Before you settle in tonight, take a moment to appreciate what Lance Lynn did in St. Louis. For $23.5 million, Lynn offered 14.9 wins above replacement (via Baseball Reference).
Sep 28, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Lance Lynn (31) looks on during the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Lance Lynn's time in St. Louis has officially come to an end, and that bums me out.

The 30-year-old righthander signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Twins worth $12 million. The latest twist in an unusual offseason, Lynn didn't get the deal that he envisioned in October, but will pitch do what he does best: prove his worth and pitch for a bigger deal.

Proving his worth is all Lance Lynn did in St. Louis for six seasons. He put together a record of 72-47 with a 3.38 ERA and 3.64 FIP, striking out 2.46 batters for every walk allowed. An innings beast of the highest order, Lynn offered consistency and predictable delight for the Cardinals. He hurled 175.0 innings or more in four straight seasons, with 2016 being cut out due to Tommy John surgery and recovery.

Lynn was a cowboy on the mound and in front of his locker after the game. The only thing he hated more than a pitch thrown under 90 miles per hour was making excuses to the media after a loss or tough game. When asked in 2017 if he was suffering a bad back, Lynn said he was fine. He wouldn't allow the media, coaches, or fans to see his work coincide with an ailment. Lynn wouldn't blame the horse, the saddle, or the rider if he didn't do his job. He wore it the outfit he laid out before the game, no matter the result.

I'll miss that swagger. Lynn carried more Chris Carpenter DNA than any pitcher, screaming at hitters, his fellow teammates, and his glove after a good or bad result. Lynn gave it all on the pitching mound, and while it often didn't add up to a ton of complete games or shutouts, he gave the Cards a chance to win.

Sure, fans will remember a fateful misplay against the San Francisco Giants in the postseason back in 2014. They will remember Tony La Russa wrongly calling in Lynn in a World Series game in 2011. They will remember the "Lynnings" that plagued more than a few of the Old Miss product's starts. Baseball fans always remember the bad more than the good, at least initially.

I'll remember the pistol butt toughness of Lynn on a mound. In a modern age of pitch counts and pitcher cuddling, Lynn was a throwback to another time. Bob Gibson should appreciate a guy like Lynn, who wasn't afraid to throw at a batter whose team wronged one of his players. Lynn was an unapologetic baseball player.

Did the Cardinals make a mistake in not negotiating a better contract last year with Lynn? Yes. One could tell by the comments from Lynn towards the end of the season that the bridge had been burned between the player and the team. Lynn also didn't care for the Cardinals, who had a fighting chance in a playoff spot hunt, traded off Mike Leake. It was over between Lynn and the Cardinals long before the regular season ended.

Still, I hoped John Mozeliak would recognize his faults and reach out to Lynn about a juicy two-year deal. Lynn could have been a bridge to the next arsenal of young Cardinals pitching. You can drool all over Jack Flaherty, Austin Gomber, Dakota Hudson, and Ryan Helsley, but they aren't ready to assume big boy innings just yet. In 2019 or 2020? Sure thing. Lynn could have helped with that, but Mozeliak got a guy named Mikolas from Japan instead. We shall see.

I knew it was over last July when I wrote an appreciation piece on Lynn. I figured he'd be traded for parts due to the eventual parting of ways, but the Cardinals couldn't find a suitor to their liking. Now, they will get a draft pick as compensation for his arrival in Minnesota.

Yes, Lynn turned down the $17.4 million qualifying offer from St. Louis in November, but I'm sure he figured there was a 2-3-year deal out there. That was before MLB owners slammed the door on long term deals being handed out like candy. Still, Lynn may look at the three-year deal Edwin Jackson got years ago from the Cubs and roll his eyes. I know I am. Things have changed and Lynn was one of the casualties.

Why write about a guy who isn't a Cardinal anymore? It's important to remember the selfless Cardinals who did a great job. Lynn didn't always win, but he was always fun to watch. He'd climb the hill, fire 90% heaters at the plate, and tip his cap to hitters who lived to see first base. Lou Brown would have loved managing Lynn.

Does he have something left? You bet your cheddar he does. 2017 saw Lynn give up more home runs than ever before in his career and he allowed more baserunners as well, but he was coming off Tommy John surgery recovery, so take it with a few grains of salt. He is turning 31 in May. The man has a good 3-4 years left before he becomes a mound hazard.

I hope he pitched well. Minnesota's Target Field isn't an easy place to pitch in, so Lynn will earn it. He could pitch well enough to be traded to a contender in July, and then get that big contract next winter. I'm rooting for him. Thankfully, he didn't end up Milwaukee or Chicago. That would have been hard.

Before you settle in tonight, take a moment to appreciate what Lance Lynn did in St. Louis. For $23.5 million, Lynn offered 14.9 wins above replacement (via Baseball Reference). If you go off 1.0 WAR meaning $8 million to a ballclub, Lynn was worth $119 million to the Cardinals. A wise investment if you ask me.

I'll miss Lynn firing fastballs at hitters, witty banter at reporters, and being sorry for nothing in St. Louis. Long may you run, sir.

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