It’s common knowledge that the Twins need a solid, top of the rotation pitcher. Whether your yard stick is strikeouts, limiting home runs and walks, postseason experience, or simply being a workhorse, there is one guy on the market who checks all the boxes, and may be surprisingly affordable. That guy is Lance Lynn.
Here are the 2017 regular season stats for two pitchers:
- Pitcher A 186.2 IP, 3.86 ERA, 10.1 K/9, 1.3 HR/9, 2.8 BB/9, 3.8 bWAR
- Pitcher B 186.1 IP, 3.43 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 1.3 HR/9, 3.8 BB/9, 3.1 bWAR
Those numbers couldn’t be much closer if we tried. Pitcher A struck out a few more guys, sure, but pitcher B kept them from getting home a little better. Needless to say, there isn’t millions of dollars difference in the two. Pitcher A is Yu Darvish, who just received a block-buster deal from the Cubs. Pitcher B is the unsigned Lance Lynn, who the Twins should be heavily pursuing. If the statistics are so close, and the money is less, this seems like a no-brainer.
Here is the best part about Lance Lynn (in my opinion): He will probably be a better pitcher in 2018 than he was in 2017. Its a common truism in baseball that a guy slumps the season after Tommy John Surgery, and re-surges the second year back. Lynn missed all of 2016 for the procedure. In 2015 his ERA was 3.03, and in 2014 it was 2.74. Both seasons he struck out 8+ men per nine innings, and held them under 0.7 HR/9. If he can even split the difference between 2015 and 2017, his 2018 numbers could well be a 3.20 ERA, 8.0K/9, and 1.0 HR/9. Those numbers would make him very likely the Twins ace.
Lynn is also a durable pitcher. He hasn’t pitched less than 175.0 innings in a professional season. There is no reason to believe that pitchers cannot come back from Tommy John as good or better than before. Too many guys have proven otherwise.
Lance Lynn is also about eight months younger than Yu Darvish. Darvish just signed a six year deal that will see him through his age-37 season. Most projections have Lynn getting four years, which would take him through his age-35 season. Those two years will have big implications given that most players regress as they age.
If we follow a heavily sabermetric approach, and look at simply cost per win using $8 million per win, Darvish was worth 30.40 million last season, while Lynn was worth $24.8 million. With Darvish signing for an AAV around $21 million, a similar contract for Lynn would be around $17 million AAV. Look at the stat lines again. Do you see a $4 million difference? I don’t think I do. Especially when you add in the fact that Lynn is likely to sign a shorter contract.
Lynn has 24 career postseason appearances as well. The Cardinals have used him in the postseason as a starter and in relief. This includes seven World Series appearances. It’s safe to say that if the Twins are looking for a pitcher with postseason experience, they would be hard-pressed to find more of it. In contrast, Darvish has six postseason appearances, all as a starter. During postseason appearances, Lynn also has the better statistics of the two, in nearly every relevant category. Pitcher wins, ERA, HR/9, and K/9 all tip in Lynn’s favor.
When you look at the big picture, the pitcher the Twins need is not Yu Darvish. The pitcher the Twins need is still on the market. When it comes to offering all the hallmarks of a high-end pitcher, Lance Lynn is as good or better than Yu Darvish, and comes with a cheaper price tag. Make it happen boy wonders!