Ten years after being plucked by the Cardinals as a first-round Draft pick out of the University of Mississippi, Lynn made what was likely his final start for the organization on Thursday. He has been adamant all season that he would welcome discussing an extension with the Cardinals, but such talks were never initiated by the organization. And so Lynn will join the pool of top free-agent pitchers this fall expecting to find another home.
Asked if he had walked off the mound as a Cardinal for the final time, Lynn said: "It certainly looks that way."
If so, he'll be remembered for being a rotation workhorse and an integral piece on so many playoff teams. He debuted in 2011 and went on to help the Cardinals win a World Series ring that year while pitching in relief. The organization slid him into the rotation the following season, and he promptly won 18 games as an All-Star.
Lynn appeared on five playoff teams and is tied with Adam Wainwright for the most postseason appearances by a Cardinals pitcher. His five postseason wins rank third all-time in franchise history.
"I hate to think that it is, but it's definitely a possibility," teammate Matt Carpenter said of Lynn's career in St. Louis coming to an end. "It's going to be different without having him around, a guy who we've seen put the jersey on for a long time and be a part of some really good teams dating back to when we came up in '11. If he's not here, I hope he's in the American League and we don't have to face him."
This year represented one of Lynn's most impressive seasons, too. After a 17-month recovery from Tommy John surgery, Lynn returned to lead the rotation with 32 starts. He avoided the typical pitfalls pitchers face when returning from the same procedure, so much so that he saw his velocity go up in the season's final month.
Lynn finished the year with a 3.43 ERA over 186 1/3 innings. His final start -- a five-inning no-decision against the Cubs -- was marred only by a home run. He was replaced by a pinch-hitter after throwing 86 pitches.
"He's had a phenomenal season and has done a great job of taking away a lot of doubt that maybe even he had, not knowing how he was going to rebound from surgery," manager Mike Matheny said. "The way he's taken the ball, the way he has competed has been impressive."
Off the field, Lynn brought refreshing candor to the clubhouse. His postgame news conferences became must-see TV for his dry banter, and he took pride in non-conformity. His stubbornness fueled his competitiveness.
"I grew up here as a man, went through a lot of things personally and professionally," Lynn said. "I wouldn't trade any of them in for anything. The fans were great all the way through. When they booed me, it made me stronger. When they cheered me, it made me happy. I've been through a lot of things here in my six-plus years, and I don't regret any of them.
"When I could physically take the ball, I took it and did everything I could to help the team win. That's all I've ever been about."