Lance Lynn has perhaps been the least talked-about of the top fifteen or so free agents in this year’s class, but Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports an interesting suitor for him: the Washington Nationals.
In recent years, Rosenthal notes, the Nationals have waited out the market until January or February before signing a Scott Boras client, with recent examples including Matt Wieters and Max Scherzer; team owners Mark and Ted Lerner interact well with Boras, as does GM Mike Rizzo. Lynn, however, is not a Boras client (Lynn is represented by Excel Sports Management, for the record). Thus, this never-before-reported pairing would definitely be interesting, especially when considering that the team is already above the luxury tax threshold and boasts perhaps the best top four in a rotation in baseball: Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark. Nonetheless, the team always appears to be on the hunt for starting pitching, and currently projects to have A.J. Cole as its fifth starter.
Lynn returned triumphantly for the Cardinals in 2017 following Tommy John surgery that wiped out all of the prior season for the right-hander, making 33 starts and posting a 3.43 ERA. However, Lynn had career-worst walk (3.8 BB/9) and strikeout (7.4 K/9) rates, leading to a mediocre 4.54 DRA and ugly 4.82 FIP. And despite making each one of his turns in the rotation, Lynn averaged only 5.6 innings per start. The 280-pound big man relies heavily on fastballs, with four-seamers, sinkers and cutters making up 91% of his pitches. Having pitched with a career-low 92.73 MPH fastball, it’s quite possible that the 30-year-old’s velocity will continue to dip, and he will have to rely more on the off-speed pitches (namely, a changeup and curveball) that he so rarely throws.
Perhaps, then, Lynn’s poor peripherals and potential continued decline in velocity are what have kept his market so stagnant; MLB Trade Rumors predicted a four year, $60 million contract for Lynn, and that may prove to be high in both years and dollars as he continues to wait, seemingly without many teams interested. However, a reduced price could make him a steal for the Nationals, and his deficiencies wouldn't matter nearly as much in Washington, where he’d slot fourth or fifth in their excellent rotation.