Jays From the Couch looks into the possibility of Lance Lynn being the final move that makes the Toronto Blue Jays serious contenders.
The Toronto Blue Jays have gone about their business in a calculating manner this winter. That’s a kind way of saying things have been slow; less than exciting. What fuels this impression of the offseason is that all of the big fish we’d been pining for went elsewhere. No Lorenzo Cain, no Christian Yelich. Instead, we were told that floor raising moves like adding Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz and Randal Grichuk would be our consolation prize.
The things is, these moves are actually good. No, they aren’t sexy. But, they’re good. All of these deals represent an upgrade over the 2017 product they’re replacing. I’ve argued before, both in writing and on the JFtC Radio podcast, that these moves, combined with the improved health of Aaron Sanchez, Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis very well could see the Blue Jays 2017 record of 76-86 turned into 90-71 this year. Yes, it’s a rough estimate, but you get the point.
The skeptical among us would say that there is a lot that needs to go right for Toronto in order for them to realize my estimate. You can’t bank on guys recovering enough to contribute every day. Acknowledging that, we can’t deny that there is better depth in case this doesn’t happen. But, the one area where this remains a concern is the starting rotation.
Sanchez and his finger remain a bit of an elephant in the Blue Jays’ clubhouse. What if Marco Estrada’s back acts up again?What if Joe Biagini struggles in the starter’s role again? Sure, there is depth in AAA in the form of Ryan Borucki and others, but it sure would make things that much more comfortable if there was another option in the mix…a legit option.
Enter Lance Lynn.
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The former 2008 first round draft pick was an All Star in 2012 and has been rather consistent since then. He missed all of 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery, which might raise a few red flags. But, his 2017 season showed no ill effects of the procedure. Well, none in the obvious ways. He tossed 186.1 innings and made 33 starts. So, the wear and tear issue seems to be a non factor. He did lose a bit on his fastball, but nothing alarming as he went from 93.2 to 92.6 from 2015 to 2017.
According to his Pitch Info at Fangraphs, Lynn features a fastball, cutter, sinker, change and curve. Post-surgery, he used the sinker more than in previous years and relied on his fastball less. His fastball was a valuable weapon, though as it has a wFB value of 15.4. He will strike out fewer batters than he used to as his K% was a big league career low at 19.7%. Though, facing the Yankees lineup, this number could go up. He also saw an uptick in his walk rate, but his 1.23 WHIP was actually lower than his All Star season. He does come with a FB% of 36.2%, which might make you a tad uncomfortable facing the Yankees lineup, or anyone else in the AL East. It isn’t as high as MArco Estrada’s 50%, though.
MLBTR says that Lynn was said to be seeking 4 years at $15M per year For what it’s worth, Alex Cobb is looking for more. The way this offseason has been going, one has to wonder how firmly Lynn is sticking to this. Cain stuck to his guns and got 5 yrs/$80M from the Brewers, so it is possible for Lynn to still get what he set out for. But, as we get closer and closer to Spring Training, his asking price very well could be altered. The pressure to join a team before things get ramped up, to bond, etc will start to increase as images of guy son the field start to circulate. That’s not to say Lynn will cave for these reasons, but it is a possibility that he starts getting eager to sign. The Blue Jays likely could afford the $15M AAV, but would probably prefer not to go that high. That said, they have been rumoured to have somewhere in the ballpark of $10-15M left to work with and, considering they were looking to take on money in a Yelich deal with the Miami Jeters, there may actually be more.
Signing Lynn would allow the Blue Jays one more step on the depth ladder. And a good one. This would also allow Joe Biagini to take what some would call his proper place in the bullpen, which also needs some attention. With the trade of Dominic Leone, there are options available, which our Roy Widrig already explored, but Roy hit the nail on the head when he summed up Biagini to the pen nicely: “Biagini could easily give 70+ innings in high-leverage situations from the bullpen, and he edges Leone in GB%, 40.2 to 55.7, and keeping the ball on the ground late in the game is certainly favorable.” He was a force there previously and is a known commodity. Relying on younger arms to pick up the slack with him in the rotation is a questionable commodity.
The outfield is not full of superstars, but it is certainly one you can start a season with. It has versatility. You could start a season with this group and feel confident. The infield has depth and versatility. You could argue that the backup catching position is weak and in need of an upgrade. Luke Maile doesn’t excite many fans. Let’s say the Blue Jays sign Lynn. Backup catcher would easily be their weakest position, which is a completely normal occurrence in Major League Baseball. Should Russell Martin miss an extended period of time, Toronto has the luxury of Danny Jansen waiting in AAA to take some every day reps. So, really starting the season with Maile as the backup is just fine.
If the cost of signing Lynn, and adding all of the benefits he brings, is Maile as your back up catcher, I say sign Lance Lynn and start the season right now.
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