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Looking back, was Lance Lynn the right choice?

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The Twins had several starting pitcher options this off season. Did they pick the right one?

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers
Hello, ball.
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

They say hindsight is 20-20, and maybe its time to take a look back at the off season. Even though it feels like forever, February was only four months ago, and we were debating starting pitchers the Twins could sign. I think everyone knows I was a big Lance Lynn advocate, and ultimately that was the route the Twins went. He wasn’t the only option though, so lets check in on the other guys. The other high-end starters available were Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, Jake Arrieta, and Jamie Garcia. Enough of the season has passed that we can start to make judgement. Did the Twins do the right thing in signing Lynn, or should they have gone another route?

Lance Lynn: One year, 12 Million

Lynn had an absolutely atrocious month of April. His May, meanwhile was pretty good, and his three June starts have been even better. I don’t know exactly why his April was so bad, but it has elevated his season numbers to a point that he looks much worse than his recent performance. During his tough April outings, Lynn had an ERA of 8.37, and an opponent batting line of .290/.427/.516; and in May, those numbers dropped to 3.76 and .295/.362/.410. In June, batters are hitting .169/.276/.246 against Lynn, and his ERA is 2.41. He gave up five home runs in March and April, and only two since then. The most notable difference, however, is the walks. After surrendering 25 free passes (compared to 26 strikeouts) in five April starts, he has given up only 18 in the eight starts since then, and struck out 45 batters.

Overall, Lynn is the owner of a 4.98 ERA, and a 4.27 FIP. His FIP is actually lower than it was last season, in his return from Tommy John Surgery. While Lynn is still at a career high 9.0 hits per nine innings, his career mark is 8.2, so he isn’t far off. He is very close to his career average for HR/9; he is currently at 0.9, and for his career is at 0.8. His strikeout rate, at 9.3 K/9, is also above his career average, and at a level he hasn’t seen since his 2012 All-Star season. The walks are still relatively high, and that is concerning; but again, April was the issue here.

Yu Darvish: Six years, $136 Million

Darvish ended up signing a six year deal with the Chicago Cubs that will last through his age-36 season. This year, he is being paid $25 million, or about twice what Lynn is making. Darvish was placed on the disabled list on May 26th with right triceps tendonitis. There is no definitive timeline for his return, but he may be out until after the all-star break.

Prior to the injury, Darvish had pitched 40 innings. His ERA was at 4.95, which is very similar to Lynn’s current number. Compared to Lynn, he has struck out batters at a slightly higher rate, and walked a few less, but no where near what the difference in their paychecks should dictate. Darvish has a 11.0 K/9, and 4.7 BB/9 rate. He’s also given up dongs at a much higher rate, at 1.6 HR/9.

Jake Arrieta: Five years, $115 million

If Darvish was considered the best pitcher available this off season, Arrieta was probably considered the second best. He took a deal with the Phillies that could pay as much as $115 million over five years, or as little as $75 million over three years, due to a couple years of team options. He is making $30 million this season.

Arrieta has turned in a solid performance. His ERA is 3.33 across 73 innings pitched. He has been struggling to get strikeouts, and giving up a few walks. His K/9 is only 6.0, and his BB/9 is 3.0. Where he has succeeded is limiting balls in play. He has given up only 8.3 H/9, and a stingy 0.6 HR/9. His trends, however, are the opposite of Lynn. After a good April and great May, Arrieta has really struggled so far in June.

Alex Cobb: Four years, $57 million

Cobb ended up signing with the Orioles, and will make $14 million this season. If you were one of the people who preferred him over Lynn, I’m sorry for what I am about to say.

The Orioles have received 63 innings of a 7.14 ERA. Cobb has never really been a strikeout pitcher, but his 6.1 K/9 is still a career low. His BB/9 is actually below his career average; despite this, he is allowing way, way too many base runners. His 13.1 H/9 and 1.9 HR/9 numbers mirror his very-bad 2016, which was considered a red-flag during the off season. While he takes a lot of blame, the rough year can’t all be pinned on Cobb though — his 5.22 FIP indicates he hasn’t gotten a lot of help. He had an even worse month of April than Lynn did, and seemed to rebound a bit in May. June hasn’t been kind to Cobb yet.

Jamie Garcia: Two years, $18 million

Garcia signed with the Blue Jays, and is being paid $8 million this season. Toronto holds a team option worth $10 million for next season, with a two million dollar buy-out. Despite being slightly below his career numbers, the lower pay day might make Garcia one of the smarter acquisitions on this list.

In 63 innings pitched this season, Garcia has a 5.71 ERA, and a 5.06 FIP. He’s just been pretty much doing his thing. His H/9, HR/9, BB/9, and K/9 rates are all around what you would expect. Compared to last season, he has struck out a few less guys, walked a few less, and given up a few less hits; but allowed a few more home runs. Still, the only one of these numbers that is better than his career average is the strikeouts. At 8.3 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 1.5 HR/9, and 9.7 H/9, its a pretty average season for the back-of-the-rotation lefty.

Here is a handy chart to compare the stats on these five guys, so far in 2018.

2018 Free agent pitcher comparison

Name 2018 Salary ERA IP FIP K/9 BB/9 H/9 HR/9 BWAR FWAR
Name 2018 Salary ERA IP FIP K/9 BB/9 H/9 HR/9 BWAR FWAR
Lance Lynn 12m 4.98 68.2 4.27 9.3 5.4 9 0.9 0.1 0.7
Yu Darvish 25m 4.95 40 4.79 11 4.7 8.1 1.6 -0.4 0.2
Jake Arrieta 30m 3.33 73 4.16 6 3 8.3 0.6 1.2 1.2
Alex Cobb 14m 7.14 63 5.22 6.1 2.3 13.1 1.9 -1 0.1
Jamie Garcia 8m 5.71 58.1 5.06 8.3 4.3 9.7 1.5 -0.5 0.1

So, what do you think — Who should the Twins have signed this off season? Was Lance Lynn the right choice, or was there someone who would have been a better call?

Poll

Which of the free agent pitchers was the best signing so far in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    Lance Lynn
    (407 votes)
  • 1%
    Yu Darvish
    (7 votes)
  • 21%
    Jake Arrieta
    (119 votes)
  • 0%
    Alex Cobb
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Jaime Garcia
    (8 votes)
  • 3%
    Someone else (put it in the comments!)
    (19 votes)
561 votes total Vote Now