As a starter, Lance Lynn went 17-5 with a 3.67 ERA and 16 quality starts, and the Cards were 21-8 in games that Lynn started. Lynn lasted on average less than six innings per start, while the Cardinals provided 6.1 runs per game of run support for the 25-year-old righty. After a strong first half of the season in which he was 11-4 with a 3.41 ERA and was named to his first All Star team, Lynn struggled in the second half to the tune of a 4.32 ERA and a demotion to the bullpen where he went 1-2 with a 6.43 ERA in six appearances.
Taking those stats into account, it makes sense that John Mozeliak said on Thursday, “I think it’s highly probable [Lynn]’s going to be a starter for us next year…My expectations for him are that he comes into camp strong, in great shape and wants to be in that rotation. It never behooves anybody to just put things in stone today. I want everybody to prepare to start. It’s much easier to go the other way.”
Mozeliak is right that it doesn’t help anyone to commit to a starting rotation on October 25th, especially for younger pitchers like Lynn, Joe Kelly, and Shelby Miller who may all be competing for a rotation spot in Spring Training. What Mozeliak does know is that barring the unforeseen, three spots will be covered by veterans Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and the recently-extended Jake Westbrook. Jaime Garcia’s status after being removed from the playoff roster after Game 2 of the NLDS due to a rotator cuff strain, an injury that he reportedly declined to notify the team about despite feeling discomfort a week beforehand, is unknown. Free agent Kyle Lohse is most likely out after a career season that will probably land him a lucrative multi-year contract.
With three starters set, Garcia’s status up in the air, and the offseason having started less than a week ago, Mozeliak is smartly reserving judgment on his starting rotation. Mozeliak’s comments help Lynn in two ways: it relaxes expectations for the young starter while also motivating him to work hard in the offseason. By not committing to Lynn 100%, Mozeliak hasn’t put any burden on Lynn to be “Superman” right out of the gate in Spring Training — expectations for “probable” starters are not as high as for players that the Cards need to start. On the other hand, after performing solidly in a starting role in 2012, Mozeliak’s noncommittal comments must motivate Lynn to get in shape and hone his craft in the winter. The last thing Lynn can do after Mozeliak’s comments is rest on his laurels and be satisfied with his performance — doing so could cost him a rotation spot.
Mozeliak’s comments would be controversial only if they were made concerning an established, veteran pitcher under contract. For example, if Mozeliak had made the same comments about Wainwright, a veteran and proven starter who was the co-ace of the staff in 2012, then there might be some rumblings about a possible rift between pitcher and management. However, while he is an intriguing young pitcher who has performed solidly in the rotation and bullpen the last two seasons, Lynn is not a proven commodity at the major league level. The Cards do not owe Lynn a guaranteed roster spot, which Mozeliak made clear in his comments.