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Trade Retrospective: How Did the Twins Do in the Lance Lynn Trade?


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Last week, former Twin Lance Lynn was traded back into the AL Central as the Rangers dealt him to the White Sox. His career has certainly taken a different path since he left the division, but the Twins were able to acquire a pair of prospects back in 2018. New York sent infielder Tyler Austin and right-hander Luis Rijo to Minnesota, so who ended up winning this trade?Time can change the view of a trades, so here’ what was said back in 2018 at the time of the deal.

 

What Did People Say at the Time of the Trade?

Lynn had only made 20 starts for the Twins at the time of the deal and he was excited to be heading to a contender. "As a fan of the game growing up, it's exciting for me as a young kid seeing them in their heyday winning a lot of World Series championships," Lynn said at the time. "You look at their team now, they're going for it. I'm excited for that opportunity and that challenge. It's going to be a different experience. I'm just going to go in there and try to do everything I can to help wherever that may be."

 

Baseball Prospectus discussed Austin’s prospect status before he finally broke into the big leagues. “the Yankees have mostly used Austin as an up-and-down fill-in when their better plans at first base or designated hitter have gone awry. He’s continued to put up big numbers for the International League in his Triple-A stints, and he’s consistently hit for power if not average when in the bigs.”

 

At the time, Tom wrote at Twins Daily and gave the Twins an A-grade for this trade. Lynn had been lackluster during his Twins tenure and Tom was surprised Lynn had this kind of trade value. He wrote, “Honestly, if this was Lynn for Luis Rijo straight up, I would have been impressed. Rijo has an insane 8.36 K:BB ratio in 125 ⅓ innings over his minor league career. He also tops out at 93 mph, so it’s not like it’s all just smoke and mirrors.”

 

Lynn’s New York Tenure

Lynn was joining a Yankees pitching staff that already had five starters in front of him. Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray and JA Happ were ahead of Lynn in the rotation. Even with that depth, nine of Lynn’s 11 appearances with New York came as a starter. He posted a 4.14 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in 54 1/3 innings. He posted a 102 ERA+ and struck out 61 while only walking 14. It was an improvement over his time with the Twins.

 

In the playoffs, Lynn made two relief appearances in the ALDS and things didn’t go as well. He allowed three runs in 2 1/3 innings with a 2.14 WHIP and as many walks (2) as strikeouts (2). New York fell to Boston in four games and Lynn signed a free agent deal with Texas that winter.

 

Minnesota’s Return

Austin played 37 games for the Twins over the next two seasons and hit .236/.298/.488 with nine home runs and five doubles. He struck out in nearly 32% of his plate appearances and the Twins dealt him to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Malique Ziegler. Since joining the Twins, Ziegler played in 18 games at High-A where he posted a .442 OPS and dealt with some injuries. He turned 24-years old in September and a lost 2020 season hurt his chances to get closer to the big leagues.

 

Luis Rijo is a little more intriguing even though the Twins have left him unprotected in each of the last two Rule 5 Drafts. His last appearances came at Low-A back 2019, so that’s likely one of the biggest reasons a team hasn’t claimed him. In that season, he posted a 2.86 ERA with 99 strikeouts over 107 innings. All those appearances were as a starter, but the bullpen might be an intriguing option moving forward, especially since his fastball already sits in the mid-90s.

 

Who Won the Trade?

Another part of the trade was the fact Minnesota had to eat $4.5 million of Lynn’s contract. This likely allowed the Twins to get any kind of value back in this trade. While Austin didn’t exactly pan out, Rijo still has potential to be a viable pitcher at the big-league level and he might have a better chance to contribute if he can make a successful transition to the bullpen. It was lucky the Twins could get anything for Lynn after the way his career started with the team.

 

Looking back, what do you think about the trade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

 

If you missed any of the previous posts in this series:

 

-Brian Dozier Trade

-Ryan Pressly Trade

 

-Eduardo Escobar Trade

 

MORE FROM TWINS DAILY

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The 2018 Twins were going nowhere. Lance Lynn was a sunk cost regardless. The team was not going to put a franchise tag on him. He was going to be gone regardless. They got a player that a change of scenery might benefit. It did not work. Had it worked the Twins would have not been as likely to have signed Cruz. The team in the end won. The Yankees went nowhere in the playoffs with Lynn. Even if nothing became of the prospects, the Yankees got nothing out of Lynn when they needed it. I did not consider the throw in, Rijo has a chance to be something. If he does, it becomes a big win rather than a small win.

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I don't fault the FO for dealing Lynn. You roll the di, you take your chances.

 

But when I look at Lynn's numbers over the last two years, the low ERAs and WHIPs, and the fact that he has finished 5th in the Cy Young voting in '19 and 6th in '20, I ask myself, "Would those performances look good as part of the Twins rotation?"

 

"Why yes," I answer myself. "Yes, I believe they would."

 

Then the wife tells me I'm muttering to myself again ...

 

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Lynn hated that the free agent market wasn't good to him and he had to 'settle' for a $12 million, one-year deal. Came to camp late, because he signed late, and got off to a poor start and he just carried that with him all year.  He was never signing back with the Twins so getting anything for him was a bonus. Same with each of those 2018 July/August deals. They took a shot with Austin, and he was a bit of a pain, but there was some upside there. Lots of power. Rijo was just a polished pitcher when the Twins got him. Now he's got the control and multiple pitches still, but he's hitting 95 and even 96 on occasion. Hopefully he gets a chance to keep developing. 

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I'd say the winner was Texas because they ended up signing a really good SP for a very cost effective salary and have now flipped him for one good prospect and one decent prospect.

 

Healthy, Lynn has been pretty darn solid to very good. I've often wondered, if he came to the Twins in a different way/time and embraced the opportunity vs coming to Minnesota with a reported chip on his shoulder, would things have turned out differently? Maybe he just wasn't a good fit in the end. But when I see contract and results the past 2yrs, how good would he have looked as part of our favorite team's rotation?

 

Twins didn't win and the Yankees didn't win. Now, if Rijo can take that added velocity, as Seth reports, and build on his 2019 in 2021 post covid inactivity, we might be talking about a "lock" addition to the 40 man this time next year.

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Still to early to say who 'won' either no one won or Twins did.  If Rijo can be anything at MLB level Twins will win the trade.  If you can get any value from a player that was just going to walk after the season and you were not going to contend with that player, then you win. 

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