The Cardinals announced that they’ve designated left-handed reliever Tyler Lyons for assignment. St. Louis also formally announced the previously-reported DFA of right-hander Greg Holland and placed Brett Cecil on the 10-day DL with right foot inflammation. Combined with an out-of-the-blue trade of Sam Tuivailala to the Mariners, the series of moves marks a dramatic shuffling of the St. Louis pitching staff.
In a series of corresponding moves, the Cardinals promoted top prospect Dakota Hudson (as had been previously reported) and recalled lefty Tyler Webb and righties Daniel Poncedeleon and Luke Weaver from Triple-A Memphis.
Just a few short months ago, a DFA of Lyons would’ve been unfathomable. The 30-year-old Lyons steadily elevated his status with the Cards from 2015-17, improving his ERA and strikeout rates each season along the way, culminating with a 2017 campaign that saw him pitch 54 innings of 2.83 ERA ball with 11.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9 and a 41.9 percent grounder rate. Lyons’ swinging-strike rate (10.3 percent) and chase rate (27.4 percent) weren’t as impressive as his K/9 mark might’ve led some to believe, but he nonetheless looked like a legitimate left-handed weapon out of the St. Louis ’pen.
This season, though, he’s missed time on the disabled list with back and elbow injuries, pitching to a dismal 8.64 ERA through 16 2/3 innings when healthy enough to take the mound. That said, Lyons’ average fastball velocity has hardly plummeted (90 mph in 2017, 89.2 mph in 2018), and he’s still punched out 19 hitters in those 16 2/3 frames — all while maintaining similar swinging-strike and chase rates.
Today’s decision to designate Lyons for assignment, then, registers as a fairly notable surprise. Given that he’ll finish the season with four-plus years of MLB service time and can thus be controlled through the 2020 season before reaching free agency, it’d be even more stunning if Lyons weren’t ultimately traded to another club — or at the very least claimed off outright waivers. He’s earning just $1.2MM this season and, given his recent success in the Majors, should draw interest from both contending clubs and non-contending teams alike.