Minnesota Twins offseason free agent target: Lance Lynn

Minnesota Twins
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The 2017-2018 offseason is here for the Minnesota Twins. Who could be Twins be targeting in the free agent market?

Now that the Minnesota Twins have entered the offseason, they are looking to improve the roster through trades and through free agent signings. In this series, we’re going to examine individual players that the Minnesota Twins could have interest in this offseason through free agency.

We will not have any specific order to which player we highlight in this series, but we will look at each player’s past history, why he would be a good fit for the Twins, and, last, the sort of contract likely to be required to sign the player.

We will continue the series with another one of the top starters on the market…

Lance Lynn, RHP

Lynn has been a known name since his high school days, and that’s not surprising with a big frame like he had coming out of high school in Indiana, where he was a 6th round selection of the Seattle Mariners in 2005, but instead chose to attend the University of Mississippi.

The Cardinals made Lynn the 39th overall selection in the 1st round of the 2008 draft out of Ole Miss, and he’s been with the organization ever since. Though not a highly-regarded prospect as far as national rankings are concerned, Lynn put up impressive numbers throughout his minor league career with his final season being his only poor ERA, but that was in the hitter-friendly era of the Pacific Coast League, having put up ERAs under 3 in 2008 and 2009 previously.

Lynn made his debut in 2011 after spending half of a repeat season with Memphis, and the Cardinals primarily used him out of the bullpen that season. He transitioned to the mound in 2012 and set his career high in wins with 18, making the All-Star team.

Blessed with a very durable stature at 6’5″ and 265-285 pounds (depending on what source you read), Lynn also has very consistent mechanics, and he was able to exhibit that as one of the most consistent starters over his first four seasons in the league, until injury and eventually Tommy John surgery ended his 2015 season early.

Lynn’s peak season was most likely his 2014 performance, where he made 33 starts, posting a 2.74 ERA over 203 2/3 innings with a 1.26 WHIP, and a 72/181 BB/K ratio. In his first full season back from TJS in 2017, for comparison, he made 33 starts, throwing 186 1/3 innings, with a 3.43 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and a 78/153 BB/K ratio.

While the numbers don’t bear it out completely, it has always seemed that Lynn dialed up for the postseason. He does have 10 appearances in the NLCS over his career, including 4 starts, with 25 2/3 innings, a 2.81 ERA, and 19 strikeouts.

How he would fit?

Lynn is built big and durable. He’s not going to come at you with much movement, though, as he utilized some variation of his fastball in at least 70% of pitches ever since he came to the big leagues. In 2017, that breakdown was roughly 40% four-seamers (averaging 92.6 MPH), 10% cutters (averaging 87.6 MPH), and 42% two-seamers (averaging 91.6 MPH). He uses three offspeed pitches in a change, slider, and curve, but totaled right around 8% usage of all three pitches in 2017.

Instead, Lynn utilizes exceptional plane and late movement on all three of his fastballs to work deep into games and generate plenty of contact off the barrel of the bat, even though plenty of that contact is in the air. With the exceptional defense that the Twins play in the outfield, Lynn would likely do well in Target Field, but he is a guy that is akin to what the Twins currently get already from Ervin Santana in consistent, durable innings.

It should also be noted that even though he hasn’t pitched in the American League, Lynn does have experience against each of the Minnesota Twins divisional rivals:

  • Chicago White Sox: 3 GS, 19 1/3 IP, 1.40 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 3/26 BB/K
  • Cleveland Indians: 1 GS, 6 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 4/9 BB/K
  • Detroit Tigers: 2 GS, 12 1/3 IP, 4.38 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 4/11 BB/K
  • Kansas City Royals: 4 GS, 24 1/3 IP, 5.55 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 8/13 BB/K
  • Total AL Central: 10 GS, 62 IP, 3.48 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 19/59 BB/K

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Contract demands

Because of his recent Tommy John surgery, Lynn’s exact bidding is going to be a bit in flux. MLB Trade Rumors had Lynn projected for a 4 year, $56 million deal. I’ve seen other projections range from $45 million to $80 million over 4 years, and much more frequent $15-20 million annual numbers if the contract length is under 4 years.

Most likely for the Twins interest, they’d be heavily invested if they could get Lynn on a 3 year pact for more money in 2019 and 2020, perhaps something like 3 years and $50 million, with $15 million in 2018, $17 million in 2019, and $18 million in 2020, likely with an option for the 4th year. Going to the 4th year, or getting anywhere near $20 million annually, however, would seem a heavy price to pay.

Next: How Twins can spend international money

Should the Twins do it?

If Darvish is beyond reach because someone has completely overpaid, rather than going to Jake Arrieta, I would much rather see the Twins take a stab at Lynn for consistent innings in the rotation at what should be a reasonable price for those innings versus what Arrieta will likely be paid.