I’ve heard it said this offseason that the Cardinals’ newest addition to the pitching rotation, Miles Mikolas, needs to outperform Lance Lynn this year. I strongly disagree. Miles Mikolas needs to outperform Yu Darvish and Jake Arrietta in both this season and the next. The Cardinals and Lance Lynn have made it obvious since long before the offseason began that they did not plan to seek a new contract; and that’s fine. Lynn doesn’t have to play in St. Louis, and I don’t blame him for wanting to test the market. St. Louis doesn’t need to pay Lance Lynn a new contract that would be based upon what he has meant to the club in his career, because the reality is this: Lynn is a fastball-only pitcher with declining fastball velocity and effectiveness. The right-handed inning-eating machine of consistency will likely eat innings at a much less economical rate, and it is probably smart to let him walk. Would I love to sign Lynn for security’s sake? Yes. But, that is completely irrelevant from the Miles Mikolas signing, because retaining talent and acquiring new talent are two entirely different things.
The three-headed executive monster in St. Louis has mountains of money at their disposal (I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice it to say that the Cardinals are in great shape financially); money that should be used for the purpose of making the Cardinals a better team. So, they looked at the current roster, assessed the free agency market….and decided to sign Miles Mikolas to a two-year, $15.5M contract. Miles Mikolas, whom most of us had never heard of. Miles Mikolas, whose most impressive highlight involves him ingesting a live reptile. Miles Mikolas, whose family seems lovely and who seems like an all-around good guy. Miles Mikolas: The Lizard King. Miles Mikolas may prove to be the best bargain of the offseason, but he is a long way from being a sure thing. He was unsuccessful in the MLB before going to Japan, and now only time will tell how much of his success in Japan will translate to the NL Central. To be clear, I like the signing. Low-risk contracts with potential for great reward are exciting and smart. But, Cardinals fans should know this: the club could have easily afforded to sign Yu Darvish or Jake Arrietta instead of Mikolas. In fact, they still could afford to do that. What we are looking at is a club that has shown an unwillingness to overpay for talent in a competitive market when overpaying for talent is the very name of the game in Major League Baseball right now. Conservatively, Darvish and Arrietta have probably played the best baseball of their career, and neither one of them is extremely likely to ever be a Cy Young Award candidate again. But, they are both still very valuable pitchers. Both pitchers should expect to be well above average, and above-average starting pitching is the kind of things that pennants are made of.
It is certainly possible that Mikolas will be effective in his debut season with the Cardinals. He could be the most welcome surprise in a Cardinals rotation since Jaime Garcia in 2015. Moreover, Arrietta and Darvish could pitch below the levels of Mikolas, making the Cardinals big time winners in hind-sight. But, the Cardinals cannot honestly say that they expect either of those outcomes. All signs point toward Arrietta and Darvish being more effective in more innings, making them significantly more valuable.
So, Cardinals Nation, when late May rolls around and we begin evaluating the success of Miles Mikolas, we cannot look simply at his numbers. Nor, can we look to the pitcher that many of you think he replaced in Lance Lynn as a comparison point. We must look at Darvish and Arrietta’s production and hope that Miles is out-pitching both of them. I know that they will get paid much more than Mikolas, and so you will say that comparison isn’t fair. But, the Cardinals are in a position to spend much more money than either one of those pitchers will sign for without it having drastic effects on their future. It is time to stop giving Mozeliak, Girsch, and Dewitt praise for being smart with their money, when they are simply being stingy and overly conservative. And, if Darvish or Arrieta are 4 wins better than Mikolas at the end of a season in which the Cardinals finish 3 or 4 games out of first place, you will know exactly where to place the blame.