Cardinals in unfamiliar territory during free agency

The St. Louis Cardinals are in an unfamiliar position — heavily involved in the free-agent market for starting pitchers — following the news that Lance Lynn will miss the 2016 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Fortunately for the Cardinals, they have the financial resources to sign David Price, Zack Greinke or Jordan Zimmermann. One major reason why: Earlier this year, they signed a 15-year television rights extension with FOX Sports Midwest worth more than $1 billion, according to Forbes.

The Cardinals have made substantial pitching investments in recent years, but usually in the form of contract extensions for players they know well — such as Adam Wainwright’s five-year, $97.5 million deal in March 2013.

In fact, the richest free-agent pitching contract in Cardinals history was signed in December 2001 by Jason Isringhausen (four years, $27 million).

To give you an idea of how little the Cardinals have invested in free-agent pitchers, here are their six largest such contracts, according to Jeff Euston of Baseball Prospectus:

Jason Isringhausen — $27 million, 4 years (Dec. ’01)

Jake Westbrook — $16.5 million, 2 years (Nov. ’10)

Andy Benes — $16 million, 3 years (Jan. ’00)

Woody Williams — $14.9 million, 2 years (Nov. ’02)

Braden Looper — $13.5 million, 3 years (Dec. ’05)

Mark Mulder — $11.5 million, 2 years (Nov. ’07)

(Of note, not one of those players appeared in the major leagues this year.)

The Cardinals’ ability to avoid the free-agent pitching market has helped them win the most games of any National League franchise in the current century. Let’s see how they fare now that they have the resources — and acute need — to take a different approach.