The Minnesota Twins are good. They were expected to come into 2020 and compete as one of the best teams in the sport. That has been true, and teams like that often bolster their positioning prior to the Postseason in an effort to make a run at the World Series. If Minnesota is going to go down that path, and they should, it will likely come in the form of pitching. Going into the year a starter was the presumed acquisition, and it may still be.
The Texas Rangers are not good, and despite hanging in near .500 at this point, they don’t seem likely to factor in as one of two third place teams playing in October. Assuming they feel the same way, veteran starter Lance Lynn could be on the trade block. He’s 33 years old and signed through the 2021 season at a modest $9.3M next year.
Besides being on a bad team, there’s a lot to like here. Lynn currently owns a 1.37 ERA through six starts, and he’s sitting down 9.6 per nine innings. He posted a 3.67 ERA across 208 innings in 2019 and topped 10 strikeouts per nine for the first time in his career. Finishing 5th in the Cy Young voting, it’s fair to say that Lynn has been everything for the Rangers that Minnesota thought they were getting when grabbing him off the free agent market in 2018.
Now we’ve come full circle, Lance Lynn has already been with the Minnesota Twins. It did not go well. Lynn made just 20 starts before being sent to the New York Yankees. It seemed apparent he viewed the deal as a below-market offer that begrudgingly was accepted late into Spring Training. He’s not a small guy normally, but came into camp looking out of shape, and stamina often looked concerning when taking the ball. The results came out to the tune of a 4.77 ERA and 4.4 BB/9 that ultimately contributed to career lows across the board.
It’s also clear that Lynn isn’t the same pitcher he was in that outlier of a season. His average fastball velocity is higher now than it was when Minnesota signed him, and some of the supporting numbers are better than they’ve ever been. Statcast numbers view him favorably in comparison to his competition across the league, and you absolutely can’t argue with the results.
Where it breaks down for me in regards to Lynn is what you’ll need to give up, and what you may be getting back into. Maybe it’s somewhat hollow to suggest a team not acquire a guy that previously didn’t work out, but I think there’s some merit to that. It’s not as though there’s been an overhaul in the organizational structure since Lynn was last here. There has been coaching staff changes that could potentially take him to even higher heights, but the bosses that handed him a paycheck deemed subpar still remain in place. Neither side got what they wanted out of the deal, and mentally that likely plays a factor.
On the basis of baseball merit, Lynn could quite possibly be the best starting asset acquirable at the deadline. His production has been top notch for the past year and a half, and Texas also has him under team control for another season. They should be asking for a nice return and dealing some combination of top prospects for that type of return seems underwhelming.
Postseason starting pitching isn’t as much about depth as it is having horses. With only three guys truly necessary and a fourth being arguable, the length of the rotation is called more into question. Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill are both proven and capable of being aces of a staff. Jose Berrios still is Minnesota’s internally developed ticket there, and Michael Pineda will be back in due time. For that group to include another member, the argument should be that they’re clearly head and shoulders above the rest. Despite what the numbers may say, I don’t think that’s a case you can make for Lynn.
It’s anyone’s guess how this trade deadline is going to play out. No one has seen much of what prospects are doing at their alternate sites, and there’s been no actual minor league action to evaluate talent real time. Throw in the wrench that Major League Baseball invited everyone to the end-of-year party and the incentive to sell is minimized. Maybe Minnesota goes the path of adding to their stable of relief arms, but if it’s a starter, I’d shy away from Lynn.
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