Twins To Sign Lance Lynn
Lynn, 30, was considered one of the four best starting pitchers on the free agent market. After missing the 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery, the right-hander bounced back strong in 2017 with the St. Louis Cardinals to post a 3.43 ERA over 186.1 IP. He is considered a reliable middle-of-the-rotation arm, though it’s worth noting that his ERA last year would have ranked second on the Twins staff.
He is part of a trio of free agent starting pitchers that have been victimized by an historically slow free agent market, as estimates last October predicted he would likely get a deal as high as $60M over four years. Just last week it was reported that he turned down a two-year deal from the Twins for $20 million. The one-year, $12 million deal is likely a compromise. It allows Lynn to explore the free agent market next year and gets the Twins a solid starter at a reasonable rate with no long-term commitment.
A lot has changed over the course of this offseason, but you'd still be hard pressed to paint this deal as anything other than an incredible bargain for the Twins. When it was announced Ervin Santana would miss the beginning of the year due to an injured finger, it would have been easy for Derek Falvey and the rest of the front office to panic and overpay the first free agent starting pitcher they could get to sign on the dotted line.
Instead, they signed veteran Anibal Sanchez to a low-risk deal (again, he has now been released) and traded from a position of depth to acquire Jake Odorizzi. Those moves afforded the front office the ability to take a hard stance on the rest of the free agent market, waiting for a good deal to land in their laps.
Lynn is not completely without concerns. His strikeout rate was down (7.4 K/9) and his walk rate up (3.8 K/9). He limped to the finish line last year with a 9.20 ERA over his last four starts. He also had the lowest BABIP among all qualified pitchers at .244, which is a far cry from his career mark of .297. Furthermore, he had by far the worst strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.96) of his career, which has been entirely in the National League.
While there are certainly some red flags, it's important to remember that was Lynn's first season back from Tommy John surgery. Also, among the 144 pitchers who logged at least 500 innings from 2011-16, Lynn ranked 21st in FIP (3.36). That's a great track record upon which to rely when he is completely recovered.
Lynn most likely joins the Twins starting rotation plans immediately. That looks to be Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson and Lynn, as the tentative plan is for a four-man rotation at the beginning of the season, with a fifth starter only necessary a handful of times before mid-May. The Twins best pitcher last year, Ervin Santana, will likely return late April or early May to take the permanent fifth spot.
It remains to be seen how prepared Lynn will be to join the Twins on Opening Day. He reportedly has been working out in Jupiter, presumably building his pitch count. Most Twins pitchers are at the 60 pitch mark as of today, leaving about three more starts to get them to the 90-100 pitch mark. Depending on where Lynn is in his routine, he could begin the year with a few shorter than usual outings.
Since Lynn had the qualifying offer attached to him, the Twins will forfeit a draft pick. MLB Pipeline is reporting that'll be the No. 95 overall pick in the draft.
The signing puts the Twins payroll near $130 million for the year, up about $25 million from last year and the highest payroll in team history. Here are the details:
Here's a live stream on Twitter, if you're interested. I talked for 18 minutes, getting into some details about Lynn's aggressive TJ rehab schedule and usage by the Cardinals in 2017, as well as the rotation and 40-man roster fallout.
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