The right-hander’s brief tenure with the New York Yankees was fine, but not enough to warrant a new deal for next season.
Lance Lynn has no future with the New York Yankees.
That’s a very blunt and terse statement to open this piece, but there’s just no way to sugarcoat or spin it. Sure, the veteran righty was way better in pinstripes than he was for the Minnesota Twins in 2018, but he isn’t what the team needs right now. Lynn was some much-needed pitching depth after coming to New York, did his job, and that’s totally fine. His services are no longer needed.
The good news for Lynn is as streaky as he was as a Yankee, he should find a new contract easily. If that contract comes from any team other than New York, all the better.
An inconsistent start
Keep in mind, this piece is not a referendum on Lance Lynn’s skills as a pitcher. A lot of his struggles in 2018 can be blamed on last winter’s free agent market moving slower than the director’s cut of Apocalypse Now. Lynn didn’t sign his one-year, $12 million deal with the Minnesota Twins until March 12. Considering Minnesota’s first regular season game was Mar. 29 and Lynn debuted Apr. 2, that gave him just about three weeks to get into game shape. That’s a tall order for any player regardless of experience.
Sure enough, Lynn struggled in April. He was 0-3 with a horrific 8.37 ERA his first month with Minnesota, and that $12 million wasn’t looking like money well spent. Lynn bounced back in May and June and went 5-3 with a 3.27 ERA over that stretch. Sadly, he regressed in July and was 2-2 with a 6.08 ERA.
Lynn also struggled with walks as a Twin, issuing 62 free passes in 102.1 innings. He only gave up 105 hits, but the walks gave him a 1.63 WHIP. No disrespect to Lynn, but those numbers were and still are unacceptable. Thus, with the Twins out of the playoff race, he was dealt to the Yankees for first baseman Tyler Austin.
Lynn fared better in New York, going 3-2 with a 4.14 ERA in 11 games (nine starts). He also cut down on his walks, allowing just 14 in 54.1 innings in pinstripes. Still, he failed to show consistency and was eventually relegated to mop-up duty.
That isn’t to say Lance Lynn can’t pitch anymore. For all of his faults in 2018, he still posted a respectable groundball rate (GB%) of 49.7 percent. Fangraphs also lists his FIP and xFIP at 3.84 and 3.98, respectively. That means though he went 10-10 with a 4.77 ERA, he pitched with the effectiveness of a pitcher whose ERA was in the high threes.
Not only that, but it can be argued Lynn’s slow free agency last offseason was a product of the upcoming winter. MLB is about to see two top players in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado headline a stacked free agency class. It’s quite possible last offseason was slow just so teams could save money for this year’s available talent.
Look at it this way. Lynn, for all intents and purposes, had an off 2018. He showed flashes of effectiveness but wasn’t the consistent and reliable arm he was with the St. Louis Cardinals. Lynn was 72-47 with a 3.38 ERA in six seasons with St. Louis and was an All-Star in 2012. As a rookie in 2011, he helped the team bring home a World Series championship and was the winning pitcher in Game 3.
Lynn also looked sharp in 2017 after missing 2016 with Tommy John surgery, going 11-8 in an NL-leading 33 starts. Still, St. Louis success aside, he wasn’t himself in 2018. He had some flashes of success with Minnesota and New York, but not enough to earn a new deal to stay in Yankee Stadium.
Looking to the future
That said, the New York Yankees need to upgrade the pitching staff for 2019. The bullpen is great, but that can only be leaned on so much. The team needs starting pitchers who can eat some innings and be effective all of the time instead of just some of it.
At this point, Lance Lynn is not that guy. He’s a prime bounce-back candidate for 2019 since he’ll surely get in a full Spring Training, but New York should not even bother. Sure, his K/9 of 9.25 was respectable, but his BB/9 of 4.37 overshadowed it.
Not only that, but Lynn only stranded 70.1 percent of baserunners last season. That number isn’t awful but is still well below his career mark of 75.5 percent. Moreover, Lynn also saw his hard contact rate jump to 35.4 percent from 29.2 percent in 2017.
And yet, for everything that went wrong for Lance Lynn in 2018, chances are he will look like his old self next season. His average fastball velocity was at 93.2 mph, the highest since his rookie year. A career-high 10 percent of his pitches resulted in strikes that were swung at and missed. His fly ball rate dipped to 27.1 percent from last year’s mark of 36.2 percent. As was mentioned before, he struck out a lot of hitters and induced a good amount of groundballs.
As many negatives as his 2018 campaign had, positives can indeed be found.
And with the direction in which the New York Yankees need to go, it’s best if Lance Lynn isn’t brought back. The team has too many solid young arms down on the farm that can make an impact, and other free agent arms like J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia should be prioritized over Lynn.
There is a team out there that will give Lynn a multi-year contract. It’s just that under the circumstances, it’s best if that team isn’t the New York Yankees.