While it was a strange sight for many St. Louis Cardinals fans to see Lance Lynn in a Minnesota Twins jersey the last couple of days, the veteran right-hander has gotten used to it.
“Yeah, I look good in blue,” quipped Lynn. “Once you realize that you’re in a new situation, new teammates, and stuff like that you’ve got to turn the page. You give yourself that one time putting on a jersey and it gives you a new sense of what’s going on. It took me that one time and now I’m good to go.”
After being drafted by St. Louis in 2008 and spending six years with the Cardinals, Lynn signed a one-year free agent deal with Minnesota back in March. The fact he had to wait until Spring Training was half over before he joined a new team only made being “the new kid” even worse.
“It doesn’t give you time to know anybody,” explained Lynn. “You don’t know anyone in the organization. You can’t get a feel for how people do things because you’re pretty much just showing up and you’re playing. It’s like that kid you pick up off the street in a pickup game that doesn’t know any of the plays or anything like that. You just feel kind of lost. You have to take your time, you’ve gotta ask questions, and try to do everything you can get to on the same page as the new team.”
That being said, Lynn is enjoying the Minnesota clubhouse and being part of a team that made a playoff appearance last season.
“We’ve got some young players that are very dynamic and then you’ve got Joe (Mauer) who’s been around forever with an MVP, so you’ve got a good vibe going on,” said Lynn. “And the manager’s a Hall of Famer, so you have a lot of guys you can run some things off of and enjoy playing the game and see a different way to go about things.”
Twins manager Paul Molitor played 21 seasons and recorded over 3000 hits on his way to Cooperstown.
“He’s just good to talk baseball and life with,” said Lynn. “He’s got no ego. For a Hall of Famer, he’s very down to earth. He’s got all the right in the world to kind of have that ego, but he’s very good with us and very easy to talk with and approach about things.”
As for the series in St. Louis, everywhere Lynn has turned there’s been a smile, hug, handshake, or wave waiting for him.
“It’s been a long two days, really,” said Lynn. “See some guys I haven’t seen in a while, catch up and say hi but when it’s all said and done, it’s another series. That’s kind of how I treat it. I had a good time here as a player, but those times are gone and now I’m an opponent so I just kind of think of it that way.”
Among those who came out onto the field Tuesday morning to say hello was St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak. He and Lynn visited for a while in what looked to be an enjoyable conversation.
It raises the question, did Lance ever pick up the phone and call Mozeliak directly to try and work out a deal to remain in St. Louis?
“That’s not for me to say,” said Lynn. “I was at home waiting for calls and that’s the way I’m going to leave it.”
Technically, the Cardinals did offer Lynn a contract as he received a qualifying offer. But that was before the market revealed what it was going to be and he turned it down just as everyone expected. After all, why would he sign a one year deal for $17.4 million when there was a multi-year deal waiting on the free agent market for anywhere from $80-100 million?
“It was just–realistically, it was just quiet,” said Lynn of the off-season market. “No one really did anything. They did and they didn’t. Everyone’s trying to get the same great deal and everybody’s on the same page and you’ve got to try and find the page you fit in. I think that we’re going to see this might be the way some free agency goes from here on because they have all the tools to do what they’ve done and the way things are going about it.
“We’ll see what changes, but if this stays the same way it is, you’re going to see guys waiting it out. There’s guys that just didn’t even get offers that are big league players. That’s weird to me. You see guys signing when Spring Training ends–everyone knows what guys are worth and what they are so why are they waiting so long to do it? It’s hurting teams because you can’t get full teams together and it’s hurting players to start seasons because they can’t get themselves ready to go. Everybody knows the market, but everybody’s trying to change it. So it’s just a weird thing.”
On one hand, Lynn was patient as he didn’t sign with Minnesota until the second week of March. On the other hand, he gave in and accepted the one year deal from the Twins for $12 million. A couple of days later, Alex Cobb received a four year deal with Baltimore for $60 million.
“When it’s all said and done, I wasn’t just going to take a bad deal to take one,” said Lynn. “I had no problem with sitting out. It’s just what it is. That’s the way it is now. If they want us to stand by our guns because they won’t negotiate with you, then we’re going to have to do that as players. Hopefully, we can as a union and as MLB and teams get going, we can get somewhat more on the same page and don’t have this where everyone’s bull-headed and not talking and not getting things done for players and teams.
“When it’s all said and done, there’s a lot of positions open for people to play and there’s a lot of teams that need help that aren’t fully invested in winning and there’s players out there that can help you win, so we’ve got to do something where the fans are going to get the best possible teams no matter what.”
The recent success of the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, who lost for several seasons and received high draft picks to rebuild their organization and then won a World Series has provided a popular blueprint for some teams to now follow. Others, like the Cardinals, have not chosen that path, instead looking to sustain a competitive team each season. The result is that you have some teams bouncing back and forth atop their division, while others are already buried in the cellar and discussing potential blockbuster trades.
“When you’ve got teams out of it the start of May, we’re not doing the right things for fans of baseball to the best product on the field, I don’t think,” said Lynn. “But like I said, that’s the way the game’s going. As players, we’ve got to figure out how to do something to get it back going to where guys can get on the field and help teams win games.”
The frustration Lynn shares is not just because of his own situation. He speaks as a veteran player looking at a bigger picture for his fraternity.
“I’ve played seven years in this game and I’m going to be okay,” said Lynn. “My goal has never been about how much money I can make or anything like that. It’s about whenever I get the ball, I win. I do everything I can to help my team win. When it comes to money or years and all that, I don’t really care. As long as someone gives me a jersey and a ball to go throw, I’ll go do it.”
And about throwing that ball–how’s the fastball?
“It’s going well,” he smiled. “It’s getting there.”
photo credit: Douglas DeFelice, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports; Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com; Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports