Why Yankees should push for trade to bring back Lance Lynn: Sherman
Chris Young was named Rangers general manager late last week, and the Yankees should put him on speed dial to keep inquiring on Lance Lynn.
Lynn and another ex-Yankees right-hander, the Reds’ Sonny Gray, are probably the likeliest starters to be traded this offseason. Both have excelled since leaving New York following the 2018 season and both are on team-friendly contracts.
But Gray is an all-time Yankees disaster who cannot be revisited. Lynn, though, offers what the Yankees need: excellence and durability at a cut-rate price. In these last two seasons, only Jacob deGrom at 10.2 has a greater pitching Wins Above Replacement (Baseball Reference version) than Lynn at 9.8 (Gerrit Cole at 8.8 was third).
In that time frame, Lynn has an ERA that is 40 percent better than MLB average (accounting for league and ballpark) and an OPS-against that is 25 percent better. But it is the reliable innings that should most captivate the Yankees. Because behind Cole in the Yankees rotation there is promise and no idea how many innings can be expected from Deivi Garcia, Domingo German, Mike King, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino and Clarke Schmidt, who combined in the shortened 2020 season to make 28 appearances and 21 starts and throw 111 1/3 innings.
In the past two years, Lynn led the majors in starts (46) and innings (292 1/3). He led the majors in starts of at least five innings (45; Cole was second at 43), was second in starts of at least six innings (36; Cole was first at 37), was second in starts of at least seven innings (21; deGrom was first at 22) and threw at least 100 pitches an MLB-best 44 times (Trevor Bauer was next at 37).
Bauer is available for cash. But the Yankees have given no indication of spending big on anybody except DJ LeMahieu (maybe not even him) nor that they would disregard and disrespect Cole by reuniting him with Bauer, with whom he has an uneasy relationship dating to their UCLA days.
The Yankees have been associated with Corey Kluber. But the righty has made eight combined starts the past two injury-filled years. He turns 35 in April. Kluber is a gamble teams with rotation solidity make because the downside does not impair them. The Yankees lack that solidity. They have Cole and pray for an NFL once-a-week schedule.
MLB and the Players Association are expected to begin meatier negotiations this week about the structure for a 2021 season, as The Post’s Ken Davidoff reported Sunday. But schedule length probably will remain uncertain until there is greater knowledge of the timetable and success of a COVID-19 vaccine. Because Lynn can be a free agent after the season, this complicates how much you would give up to get him in a trade because you don’t know if the season will afford him the ability to start 30 times or 25 or 20 …
Still, no team would benefit more from a season shortened to, say, 135 games than would the Yankees. Perhaps a May start would get them closer to having Severino back from February 2020 Tommy John surgery and lessen the innings burden on the others.
Right now, though, the only schedule is for 162 games, and the union is going to want to play and get paid for that amount. At that length, every team would be challenged to cover the roughly 1,450 necessary innings. Lynn threw the most regular-season innings in 2020 with 84. So even veterans will have to rebuild arm strength. There was no minor league season for steady climbs in youngsters’ workloads. Teams will need quantity of arms as much as ever if there is a 162-game 2021 season.
The Yankees have been careful in raising pitcher workloads. So what will they ask of Severino, who has made five starts (postseason included) since 2018? Or German, who has not pitched in MLB since Sept. 18, 2019, due to being suspended for a domestic abuse violation? Montgomery has thrown a combined 75 1/3 regular-season innings the last three years. Garcia and King have exceeded 100 innings in the minors; Schmidt has never done even that.
The Yankees internally believe Severino, Montgomery, German, Schmidt and Garcia have the talent to be No. 2-4 starters (there is a lot of organizational backing for Montgomery). King is viewed as a solid back-end complement, and Nick Nelson and Miguel Yajure provide 2021 starting depth. But that is a lot of uncertainty and combustibility for a team that will again be championship-or-bust. And what if even a month-long injury befell Cole? You can begin to see a formula by which the Yankees could not bullpen and hit their way out of under-performing in 2021.
Lynn is no Cole. But he is as close to sure innings as you can get for a job as treacherous as throwing a baseball hard. He has one year left on a three-year contract and would count as just a $10 million hit toward the luxury-tax payroll. Expect that Masahiro Tanaka would cost more in 2021 on a multi-year pact. The Yankees have always been intrigued by the lefty power of Rangers slugger Joey Gallo (think: Kyle Schwarber, but with defensive chops), who could be a free agent after 2022. I wouldn’t touch another swing-and-miss hitter (even lefty). Would the Yankees? If so, would they build a trade around Clint Frazier and Luke Voit (who both can’t be free agents until after the 2024 season) with Gallo available to play left or first?
Whatever they do in a plodding offseason, the Yankees have to do more than dance with LeMahieu. They have to find surer innings to support Cole.