Lance Lynn has been a revelation after Tommy John surgery, but the Cardinals would be wise to deal him while is value is high
Lance Lynn has been one of the few good stories to come out of the Cardinals this year. After undergoing Tommy John surgery caused him to miss all of 2016, he’s had a resurgence in 2017. Lynn has been one of the most solid pitchers in the entire Cardinals rotation, and part of the reason the Cardinals are competing in the NL Central.
However, as I discussed last week, this team is not properly built to contend deep in the postseason. The Cardinals are a team with a few pronounced strengths (pitching) and many very pronounced weaknesses (defense, bullpen, offense). It would definitely be be best to give up some pitching for some defensive, offensive, or bullpen help.
Enter Lynn, who’s 2017 season has been remarkable in more ways than one. Until he got shelled by Baltimore on Father’s Day, Lynn had a 2.69 ERA in 73.2 IP. After giving up 7 earned runs in 4.2 innings, his ERA went up to 3.33. No, this article is not a knee jerk reaction to one bad game, but that game may be indicative of an overall trend: Lance Lynn has been extremely lucky this year.
Lucky or Good?
I’m not trying to discredit Lynn’s season, but Sunday’s game may just be an indication of things to come. Almost every stat points to Lynn being the benefactor of extreme luck this season. His BABIP is .222, nearly 80 points below league average, and that was after being lit up by the Orioles.
Lance Lynn has served up 16 home runs this year in 78 1/3 innings. That ties his career season high from 2012 (176 innings). #stlcards
— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) June 18, 2017
His FIP (fielding independent pitching) is 5.30 but his ERA is 3.33. That’s a differential of 1.97 which is astronomically high. Something has to give, and the Cardinals need to decide whether they’re banking on Lynn improving, or Lynn regressing to the mean. The 1.97 differential is the largest of his career by a long shot. Additionally, Lynn’s BABIP is the lowest that it’s ever been and his strand rate (86.5%) is absurdly high. These statistics aren’t red flags, they’re blaring fire alarms.
Lynn’s downfall isn’t a guaranteed thing. Maybe he’s refigured out a way to pitch to his defenses strengths or “make his own luck” (whatever that means). If I were the Cardinals, I wouldn’t count on Lance Lynn reinventing pitching. They need to trade him now while his value is high.
Lynn is a free agent next season, and some team is going to overvalue his first half performance and offer him a ton of money. If the Cardinals get something good for him right now as opposed to letting him walk for nothing, they should do it as soon as possible. Lynn’s value is only going to decrease as the season goes on.
However, teams can get more from a trade deal if they wait for the deadline when GMs are desperate to make a move and help their team. It’s a gamble for the Cardinals for sure. They can wait to the deadline and milk that sweet sweet panic nectar, but they have to hope Lynn doesn’t implode before then. With the numbers Lynn has, it could happen at any time.
What do they get back?
This is really the ultimate question of this article, as trading Lynn could be a move to rebuild or a move to contend depending on the return. If the Cardinals trade him for a prospect or a young player, than obviously they’re looking towards a rebuild. If they trade him for a power bat or a defensive outfielder or bullpen help, then we know they’re looking to retool and contend.
Personally, I’m leaning towards a rebuild. A sub .500 record coupled with 5.5 games out of first is not the contending recipe. Though there is time to turn it around, there are too many glaring weaknesses on this team to be patched up by one or two players acquired through trade. Rental pieces will only make a small push to contention. That’s why the Cardinals should look to acquire younger player that can help them in the future.
Lance Lynn has been one of the feel good stories of the year, but it’s going to go from feel good to feel bad very quickly. Plus, the Cardinals probably won’t be able to afford to resign him this offseason anyways. Trading Lynn is the best option for the front office to maximize return on a player who is exceeding expectations. Lynn’s dance with the FIP devil cannot last all season. The Cardinals definitely don’t want him around when his luck starts to run out.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry – USA TODAY