In search of another starter, the Washington Nationals are taking a closer look at Lance Lynn. A good mid-rotation guy, he would bolster this strong staff.
The former St. Louis Cardinals hurler is a first-time free agent after six successful seasons along the Mississippi along with a Tommy John surgery. Lynn will turn 31 in May.
If the Nats make headway with Lynn, he would contend with Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark as the third starter. With Gonzalez hitting free agency when the season finishes, Lynn would carry a definitive mid-rotation role for a while.
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With the Cardinals, Lynn made $7.2 million last year. You can expect him to fall within the $12-15 million range wherever he lands. That puts him in Gonzalez territory for a contract which would balance well in the future.
On the mound, Lynn is a gamer. In his first season back from Tommy John, he made a full schedule of 33 starts. An innings-eater, he threw 186.1 in 2017 and cleared 200 twice before his injury. As the Cards battled in the National League Central, he went 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA and 1.229 WHIP.
As with most mid-rotation starters, Lynn has both good and bad points. If you are a believer in the fielding independent ERA statistic, his was a bad 4.82 last year. The highest of his career, suggesting luck played a factor in his record. But, his 7.3 H/9 was a career best. His WHIP was too.
However, those 27 home runs allowed lit up scoreboards.
Another factor to file away in the back of your mind is the Cards made no move to extend him. Strange if you consider his consistency over the years and 24 playoff appearances. Yes, his October numbers of 5-4 with a 4.50 ERA do not scream Cooperstown, but they are not terrible. To be fair, Lynn’s postseason role has been primarily a reliever.
But, Washington has an ace up their sleeve if Lynn is interested. Derek Lilliquist, the Nats new pitching coach, was Lynn’s guru in St. Louis. Of all the adjustments that happen when you switch teams, having a familiar and friendly face often helps.
A Lynn signing is within Mike Rizzo’s style. A starter is in the need category for Washington and one of Lynn’s capability would give a strong rotation a jolt. Also, it would allow the future race for a fifth starter to mature. Another bonus.
A deal here makes sense in the four-year/$60 million range. (MLB Trade Rumors agrees.) Whatever short-term payroll issues Washington has this year smooth out over time. Lynn can be a solid two if needed, but can thrive in the middle of this star-studded rotation.