Red Sox free agent target: Right-handed pitcher Lance Lynn
By Rick McNair
The need for pitching depth is essential for the Boston Red Sox and one possible rotation addition could be Lance Lynn. Lynn has some positives and certainly some negatives. Let’s take a look.
Pitching depth is a necessity and the Boston Red Sox certainly faced that in 2017 with a season-ending injury to Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez having his annual breakdown, and David Price with a balky elbow. Toss in the miseries of Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith and that seals the deal for pitching depth.
The two most prominent starters available in the free agent marketplace are Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta – both will command a contract that starts at $100 million for anywhere from four to seven years. But one option exists that may be of interest (note: Maybe) and that is 30-year-old right-hander Lance Lynn.
Lynn is projected – if you have faith in projections – to sign a four-year deal in the $56 Million range. Lynn has also missed a season (2016) with the seemingly inevitable Tommy Joh Surgery. The good news is Lynn appears completely recovered tossing 186.1 innings on his way to an 11-8 record, but then the bad news.
Lynn has that one pitching fault that personally drives me to contemplate drinking Drano – walks. Last season it was a 3.8 BB/9 and for his career a 3.4 BB/9. Lynn also had more than a bit of Rick Porcello is his offerings allowing a career-high 27 home runs. And how about another dose of bad news? Lynn may have a very nice 3.43 ERA, but, hey – the counterbalance is a 4.82 FIP. For 2017 Lynn delivered a 1.4 fWAR.
A healthy Lynn is a workhorse capable of getting close to 200 innings tossed. Healthy, of course, will be a question mark, but it certainly appears Lynn is back to his pre-surgery days. Lynn tosses three basic pitches – a curve, change and a fastball with the usual variations. Last season Lynn’s FB velocity had ticked down, but not significantly so since his pre-TJ days. However, the 7.4 K/9 was a career low.
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The risk is obvious with any Lynn contract – are the questionable numbers indicative of the recovery process or a sign that the bottom is about to fall out? After the Price injuries and that of John Lackey – a similar pitcher to Lynn – any arm should come with a warning labeled tattooed on it, but that is the risk/reward with baseball and this is a risk.
My first choice for a pitcher to sign would be Alex Cobb. Cobb has similar numbers to Lynn and similar injuries. Cobb has also migrated rather impressively through the American League East offensive midfield and would be a slightly cheaper acquisition. That falls though I would try to sign Lynn.
With Lynn, the back out would be the length of the contract. I would expect the money portion to be in the nice neighborhood of $15 million annually. Going above four years? Never! Lynn would also give some insurance for a Porcello repeating 2017 with the idea that Lynn would not mirror Porcello. A Lynn signing could be further beneficial as a bridge to if and when the farm system produces a reasonably talented starter. And Porcello is also off the books in 2019.
So, if Boston decides to add some depth the Lynn option could certainly mean a pitcher who could be entrenched in the middle of your rotation, or it could mean dead money. I would go for it.