St. Louis Cardinals Should Consider Signing Mark Buehrle with Lance Lynn Out for 2016


A major wrench was thrown in the St. Louis Cardinals’ plans for 2016 on Tuesday, as righthanded starting pitcher Lance Lynn underwent Tommy John surgery, which will sideline him for the entire 2016 season. The loss of Lynn leaves a hole in the starting rotation for next year which previously had not existed with Lynn, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, and Jaime Garcia under contract for 2016.

The Cardinals could remedy this situation rather easily if veteran starter John Lackey accepts the $15.8 million-dollar qualifying offer that they tendered him last week. He’d be the first major-leaguer to accept an offer of this sort since baseball instituted the concept three years ago, but considering that he’s 37 years old and shouldn’t be worth a whole lot more than $15.8 million on the open market, it’s possible that he could end up accepting the deal and avoid the uncertainty of free agency.

If Lackey rejects the offer and decides to hit the open market, however, there’s another obvious candidate who would be a nearly-perfect fit to fill in for Lynn next year: St. Louis native Mark Buehrle, a 16-year major-league veteran who spent 2015 with the Toronto Blue Jays. Even if the Cardinals are able to work out an arrangement with Lackey for 2016 and possibly beyond, Buehrle would be a great player to bring in as a sixth starter and an insurance policy for the starting rotation.

There’s really no guarantee of health among the Cardinals’ projected starters for next year, so they should have a legitimate big-leaguer standing by and ready to step in. Wainwright (ruptured Achilles tendon) and Martinez (inflamed rotator cuff) both dealt with significant injuries during 2015. Wacha dealt with a scary shoulder injury in 2014 that looms as a possible issue going forward, while Garcia has chronic shoulder issues and has not started more than 20 games in a season since 2011. The Cardinals obviously will be hoping for full health from all four of those pitchers, but the odds would seem to indicate that at least one of them will end up missing some time during 2016.

More from Arch Authority

Beyond the aforementioned four starters under contract for next year, the Cardinals have three other pitchers on their current roster who made starts in 2015 and could fill in next year: lefthanders Tim Cooney, Tyler Lyons, and Marco Gonzales. With that said, Lyons is expected to transition to a full-time bullpen role in 2016 and replace Randy Choate, while Gonzales may also join him in a conversion to relief.

It would help to have more defined roles and avoid a situation where a pitcher has to be plucked out of a key bullpen role at midseason and move back to the rotation, so it would be more favorable to have a dedicated sixth starter who can be stashed in a long relief role to start the season. Think along the lines of how the World Series champion Kansas City Royals used veteran starter Chris Young in 2015: the 36-year-old pitched six of his first seven games out of the bullpen, was then moved into the rotation from early May until the end of July, spent August and nearly all of September back in the bullpen, and then re-entered the rotation and went on to start all through the postseason and in Games 1 and 4 of the World Series.

Buehrle had a “just OK” season in 2015 for the Blue Jays, starting 32 games and recording a 3.81 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP, and a .279 opponent batting average. For Buehrle, the ace of the Chicago White Sox’s 2005 World Series championship team who threw a no-hitter in 2007 and a perfect game in 2009, those numbers are strikingly close to his career average 3.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and .274 opponent average.

More from St. Louis Cardinals

While Buehrle had a career-low 4.12 strikeouts per nine innings during 2015, his advanced numbers as a whole were more encouraging, as he had a career-best 1.49 walks per nine and allowed a .289 batting average on balls in play, which is a bit lower than his career average of .295.  He was especially inconsistent after the All-Star break, though, yielding a 4.54 ERA, a 1.37 WHIP, and a .303 opponent average.

Buehrle was left off of the Jays’ postseason roster, and there were rumors that he would retire–to the point that they were reported as fact by Sports Illustrated and other outlets following the regular season–though Buehrle denied those rumors during the postseason, saying he had not yet made a decision on his plans for 2016.

Despite the retirement rumors, it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which the Cardinals would express interest in Buehrle and his interest wouldn’t be mutual. In a 2009 interview with USA TODAY‘s Bob Nightengale, Buehrle openly expressed his life-long desire to play for the Cardinals:

"‘”Even if it’s just for a day, if I could put on a Cardinals uniform and throw one pitch,” he says, “I would love that. The Cardinals are my team. If we’re not playing them, I want them to win.” Buehrle, who grew up 30 minutes from Busch Stadium in St. Charles, Mo., won’t apologize for his love of the Cardinals. They were his team growing up, and he spent 20 nights a year at the ballpark. He even showed his support during the 2006 World Series, wearing a Cardinals cap to Game 3.“I got in trouble for wearing it,” Buehrle says, laughing, “but why not? Just because I’m playing doesn’t mean I’m not a fan. It would be different if I wore their cap while we played against them, although I threatened to do that.”‘"

One factor that could be detrimental for the Cardinals with Buehrle is his unwillingness to sign a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training next season. Considering his ineffectiveness at the end of 2015, they might want to see what he’s got left in spring training before handing him a roster spot. One must wonder if that stipulation would change, however, if Buehrle were offered the chance to join his hometown team, as he’d be under no obligation to go to the minors. Under MLB rules, players who end the previous regular season on the major-league roster must be given roughly a week’s advanced notice of whether they’re going to make the big-league club, and at that point they’re given an opt-out if they are not added to the 40-man roster. In fact, it’s a negative for teams to send these players to the minor leagues, as the players must be paid a $100,000 retention bonus in order to stay in the organization.

Live Feed

MLB Rumors: 3 Cubs backup plans if Tyler Glasnow trade is off the board
MLB Rumors: 3 Cubs backup plans if Tyler Glasnow trade is off the board /


  • 3 Braves backup plans if Tyler Glasnow trade is off the boardFanSided
  • Cubs rumors: No bidding war for Yamamoto, FA pitcher targeted, Morel's futureFanSided
  • MLB Rumors: 3 best Yoshinobu Yamamoto destinations after Ohtani dealFanSided
  • 5 best free agents available after Shohei Ohtani deal and where they’ll signFanSided
  • How the Shohei Ohtani signing could hamstring the Los Angeles DodgersCall to the Pen
  • It’s not as if the Cardinals place a whole lot of priority on 40-man spots these days, anyway. The club added minor-league outfielder Anthony Garcia to the 40-man roster last week, making him the fourth player in the past year that they’ve added to the major-league roster despite having previously gone through the Rule 5 Draft unclaimed and having ended the previous season in the minor leagues (he followed Ed Easley, Dean Anna, and Ty Kelly). If the Cardinals really wanted Buehrle as an insurance option for their rotation, there’s no reason to think that they couldn’t immediately guarantee his salary and find space for him on the 40-man roster.

    Buehrle would make a solid fifth starter for the Cardinals, and his presumed willingness to accept a one-year deal for 2016 would be a positive, as he wouldn’t be blocking Lynn’s return to the staff, or the eventual ascension to the rotation of top prospects Gonzales and Alex Reyes, in future years. Even if Lackey returns or the Cardinals find another high-level starter in free agency, Buehrle would be a fine upgrade over Carlos Villanueva as the staff’s swingman for next season.

    Purely due to his previous track record and service time, Buehrle should be able to command at least a low seven-figure salary for 2016. That’s not necessarily a guarantee, though, as Young posted vastly superior numbers in and won the AL Comeback Player of the Year for the Seattle Mariners in 2014, yet still signed with the Royals last winter for just $675,000. Regardless, for a team that’s returning four starters with injury concerns, a guy like Buehrle that’s made at least 30 starts in 15 straight seasons and has won a World Series should be more than worth it.

    Next: Cardinals SP Lance Lynn has Tommy John Surgery, Will Miss 2016 Season

    For more news and opinions as the MLB offseason gets into full force, head over to our Cardinals page.