Lance Lynn is rarely mentioned when the Yankees starting rotation for 2019 is discussed. Here’s why that could be a mistake…
Lance Lynn is not a household name when it comes to starting pitchers in the major leagues today. Overshadowed in New York by Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and now James Paxton, it could be that when Brian Cashman finishes rounding out the Yankees starting rotation, Lance Lynn will be shut out as the forgotten man. Before that happens though, consider the following:
Lance Lynn, with 82 wins over six full seasons is nearly 30 wins over .500. His greatest strength, however, is his durability, averaging 31 starts a season. Lynn also fits in well with Cashman’s desire of late to have pitchers on his staff with oversized swing and miss rates. Last season, Lance Lynn averaged 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
Remarkably, Lynn has not been retained on the Yankees 40-man roster and subsequently is a free agent. It’s a move made by Brian Cashman who is not usually subject to second-guessing. More accurately perhaps, Lynn was not protected in favor of other Yankees prospects, keeping them away from the Rule 5 Draft, while Lynn can be re-signed as a free agent.
Still, competition for the fifth spot in the rotation is expected to be severe. CC Sabathia will hold the fourth spot for as long as he lasts, but after that, the field is wide open. Along with Lynn, Jonathan Loaisiga (also with nine-plus K’s per nine innings), will get an extended look during Spring Training. No longer in the competition is Justus Sheffield, who went to the Mariners in the Paxton deal.
In the Yankees farm system, righties Chance Adams, Domingo Acevedo, and Domingo German, are ready to contribute as needed, but none of them appear ready to seriously challenge for a permanent spot in the rotation.
Thus, the primary challenge for Lance Lynn will come from Brian Cashman, who as we said, is far from done with trades or free agent signings. The trade market, we are led to believe, offers Corey Kluber, Madison Bumgarner, and Carlos Carrasco. Among the free agent starts, Charlie Morton and J.A. Happ are available, and though both are aging in years, neither will command more than a one or two-year deal. Morton, it should be noted, averaged more than ten strikeouts per nine innings last year.
While Lance Lynn hasn’t been thrown under the bus publicly like Sonny Gray, who is being openly shopped for a trade, it’s possible Cashman will use Lynn in a trade when and if he becomes an “extra” piece.
Cashman rarely makes a mistake, but recall the age-old baseball axiom – you can never have enough pitching. Remember too that we are talking about a fifth starter who won’t even be needed the first month of the season with all the postponements and scheduled days off.
In sum, the opportunity to trade Lance Lynn will always be there for the Yankees. But for now, the smart thinking should say to pencil Lynn in as the fifth starter, allowing him to make 8-10 starts, and then see what you have.
The heavy lifting has already been accomplished when James Paxton was brought on board. Now, filling in the pieces should not have to mean dealing more prospects for someone like Corey Kluber, even though his addition is intriguing.
As for the free agents, keep the money saved on a Happ, Morton, or any of the others. Instead, go after the big fish in the pond, especially Bryce Harper, who can be seen hitting fly balls into that short right field porch at Yankee Stadium all night long.
Lance Lynn may not be the guy who perks up the Yankees fanbase, but they already have enough of that. What the Yankees do need, however, is a “steady Eddie” type who can man the fifth spot and show up every time it’s his turn to pitch. If given a chance, Lance Lynn could easily be that guy, and maybe even more.
Written by Steve Contursi, Editor