Pittsburgh’s plenty familiar with Lyons, who had been with NL Central rival St. Louis since it selected him in the 2010 draft. Lyons, a former starter, debuted with the Cardinals in 2013 and later emerged as an effective piece out of their bullpen. Over 97 appearances (89 in relief) and 162 innings from 2015-17, Lyons posted a 3.33 ERA. He was particularly excellent in 2017, a 54-frame showing in which he logged a 2.83 ERA with 11.33 K/9, 3.33 BB/9 and a 41.9 percent groundball rate.
The Redbirds were likely expecting more of the same from Lyons in 2018, but the 30-year-old’s season went awry as he battled back and elbow injuries. While Lyons continued to strike out hitters at a solid clip (10.26 per nine), his walks increased (4.32 BB/9), his grounder rate dropped to alarming degrees (28.3 percent) and his home run rate went from .5 per nine the previous season to 1.62. He also surrendered a ridiculously high .412 batting average on balls in play and only recorded a 60.4 percent strand rate. All of that led to an 8.64 ERA across 16 2/3 innings for Lyons, whom the Cardinals designated for assignment in late July. Lyons spent the rest of the season at Triple-A, where he offered far better production (2.49 ERA, 8.72 K/9, 2.49 BB/9 in 21 2/3 innings), and then elected free agency in October.
Considering Lyons’ past success and the makeup of the Pirates’ bullpen, he could earn a major league shot in Pittsburgh in 2019. Aside from closer Felipe Vazquez, the only lefty reliever on the Bucs’ 40-man roster is Steven Brault, who has struggled in the bigs since debuting in 2016.