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After the Rick Porcello deal, does St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak regret not buying out some of Lance Lynn's free agent years?

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Pitching just keeps getting more expensive.

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox and starting pitcher Rick Porcello announced on Monday that the two parties have agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $82 million. That's an average annual value (AAV) of $20.5 million from 2016 through 2019. The Red Sox already had Porcello under contract at $12.5 million for his age-26 2015 season. The extension will last until after the righthander's age-30 season. In effect, the extension creates a five-year guaranteed contract worth $94.5 million. Here are Porcello's career stats as a big-leaguer:

Year

G

GS

IP

LOB%

K%

BB%

ERA

FIP

xFIP

fWAR

rWAR

2009

31

31

170.2

75.5

12.4

7.2

3.96

4.77

4.27

1.2

2.5

2010

27

27

162.2

65.9

12.0

5.4

4.92

4.31

4.24

1.6

0.1

2011

31

31

182.0

67.4

13.3

5.9

4.75

4.06

4.02

2.1

0.2

2012

31

31

176.1

69.0

13.7

5.6

4.59

3.91

3.89

2.7

1.5

2013

32

29

177.0

69.8

19.3

5.7

4.32

3.53

3.19

2.8

2.4

2014

32

31

204.2

72.4

15.4

4.9

3.43

3.67

3.68

2.7

4.0

Total

184

180

1073.1

69.9

14.4

5.8

4.30

4.03

3.87

13.1

10.6

Porcello posted those stats while pitching in the American League, where the designated hitter means pitchers pitch against their counterparts far less often than in the National League. Even so, those stats are rather underwhelming. Porcello is not a superstar—though his durability has made him valuable. The righty's 13.1 fWAR since 2009 ranks 44th among MLB starters during that time frame. Durability has value and the Red Sox seem to recognize that. They may also believe the improvements he made in strikeouts will continue moving forward.

But let's set aside what the Red Sox are thinking for just a moment. I'm wondering what St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak is thinking. Specifically with respect to fourth-year starter Lance Lynn.

You'll recall that the Cardinals and Lynn agreed to a contract over the offseason. It's technically an extension. Lynn was arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career this offseason, which means the Cardinals could go year-to-year with him. If the Cards had done so, they would have committed to a one-year contract and if Lynn suffered an injury or somehow became very bad at pitching, they could have cut him loose by non-tendering him the following offseason. Those circumstances could have repeated themselves for 2016. Instead, the Cardinals agreed to guarantee Lynn a three-year deal worth $22 million.

At the time the Cardinals announced the deal, Mozeliak revealed that he and Team Lynn had discussed a longer, bigger contract. From MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch back in January:

"Obviously, when you start talking about free-agent years or option years, there's a cost to that," general manager John Mozeliak said. "It certainly was something that was on the table and discussed. But ultimately the comfort of something getting done, even though it may feel short, it gives us some cost certainty."

In other words, Lynn's asking price in exchange for guaranteed or option years covering any of his free-agent seasons was too rich for Mozeliak and company's blood. Better to lock in the nearly-Super Two player at a set salary than go longer and buy out a free-agent year or two. Does Porcello's deal change that calculation?

To be sure, Porcello and Lynn are in different places on the CBA pay spectrum. Whereas the Cards had Lynn under control for three more seasons, Boston only had Porcello under control for one more year. In that regard, Porcello's situation was more analogous to Adam Wainwright's entering the 2013 season than Lynn's during the 2014-15 offseason. Free agency was on the near horizon for Porcello but not Lynn. That's an important distinction.

Porcello's deal reflects the current state of the free-agent pitching market because he is closer to becoming a part of it. Last winter, we saw Jon Lester and Max Scherzer went for last offseason. Now here's Porcello, a pitcher below either of those two's respective skill levels, signing for an AAV over $20 million.

Porcello's best season by fWAR to date was 2.8 in 2013. That's the equivalent of Lynn's worst as a starter by the stat. Porcello's last three seasons have been the best of his career by fWAR—he's notched 8.2 fWAR cumulatively from 2012-14. Lynn has tallied 9.9 fWAR over that same time period. Lynn is probably a better starter today than Porcello.

When Lynn hits free agency in three years, what will a pitcher of his talent (in between Lester and Scherzer on the one hand and Porcello on the other) be able to command for a salary? Pondering this question poses another. It makes one wonder if the asking price Lynn and his team established during last winter's negotiations might very well wind up a bargain in comparison to the offers the righty might field as a free agent. We'll likely never know the substance of Lynn's ask, but Mozeliak does. That's why I wonder what he is thinking in the wake of the Porcello-Red Sox extension.