The market for Lance Lynn could be more robust than the markets of Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, since he falls a notch below those “ace” starters. This comparable affordability puts more teams in play.
No one signing Lynn is expecting an automatic Cy Young Award contender. There is, however, value in what Lynn provides: innings, strikes and competence. He sometimes loses the strike zone and his walks are worrisome. In 2017, his home runs allowed jumped markedly to 27 from a previous high of 16, but this could be attributed to the trend throughout Major League Baseball in which every swing is made with the hitter looking for a home run. For context, Clayton Kershaw – with whom Lynn would otherwise never be mentioned in the same sentence – surrendered 23 homers. Kershaw’s previous high was 16.
Lynn gets a pass on that.
He’s not “max effort” and has already recovered from Tommy John surgery, so there’s reason to expect him to be healthy and productive for the duration of a five-year contract through his age-36 season.
A caveat: Lynn is from Indiana and went to the University of Mississippi. A big-market, East Coast team is probably not preferable to him on or off the field. A club that is looking for an ace but doesn’t want to spend the money for one might try to promote Lynn as a marquee acquisition – this is bad for him and for the team.
The team with which he’s spent his entire career, the St. Louis Cardinals, will obviously want him back. The following potential landing spots that best suit Lynn are separate from his longtime baseball home… and applicable if nothing can be worked out with St. Louis.
Lynn is ideal for the Cubs in multiple ways. His pitching style and production are eerily similar to that of the departing John Lackey. He will benefit greatly from the Cubs’ defense. With Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana in front of him in their rotation, he won’t be relied upon as anything more than a mid-rotation starter. They would simultaneously be weakening a historic and current rival. That too is a benefit.
The Cubs are not expected to retain Arrieta. It’s difficult to envision them jumping in on Darvish with him being the same age as Arrieta, asking for a lot of money and not having pitched particularly well in the 2017 postseason. Where does that leave them as they look for starting pitching?
Los Angeles Angels
With their starting rotation and surprisingly weak offense, manager Mike Scioscia bringing the 2017 Angels in just under .500 is a borderline miracle stemming from deft bullpen use and rampant parity throughout baseball. They have re-signed Justin Upton to a five-year, $106 million contract. They’re in need of a third baseman with the likely departure of Yunel Escobar, but first and foremost on their shopping list is starting pitching. They can fill one spot with Lynn — he will greatly benefit from their superlative defense, the tight ship run by Scioscia (Lynn is used to that from his time with the uptight Cardinals), and the laid-back Southern California atmosphere.
Like the Angels, the Rangers are desperate for starting pitching. Like the Angels, the Rangers have a superlative defense to help Lynn. Like the Angels, the Rangers are willing to spend money.
How would he choose between two similar teams? As laid-back as Southern California is and with all its other positives, Texas does not have a state income tax, giving any contract greater value than if he chose California, Illinois, Missouri, or any team except those located in Florida (neither the Marlins nor Rays will pay him) or Washington State (it’s difficult to see him going to Seattle).
The friendly confines of Globe Life Park in Arlington are concerning for a pitcher who walks as many hitters and gives up as many home runs as Lynn does, but the Cardinals’ infield defense in recent years has been mediocre at best. Having stronger infield defense — such as what the Rangers would have behind him — could mitigate his penchant for dancing around the strike zone and limit the home runs he surrenders to solos.