Yankees and the Top Landing Spots, Trade Packages for Rangers SP Lance Lynn
The Texas Rangers appear set to pivot to a rebuild after a disappointing 2020 season that began with legitimate hopes of playoff contention, and the front office has already indicated that payroll will be cut this offseason.
Lynn, 33, is set to earn a modest $9.3 million in the final season of a three-year, $30 million contract that has proved to be a steal. Still, it's enough to make him the fourth-highest-paid player on the Texas roster and an obvious trade candidate.
To that point, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported on Monday that Lynn is indeed already on the trade block.
After finishing fifth in AL Cy Young voting during the first year of that contract, Lynn followed that up with a sixth-place finish in 2020 when he led the majors with 84 innings pitched and posted a 3.32 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and an 89-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
His age and status as a one-year rental will limit his trade value to a point, but a thin starting pitching market should help drive interest, and a bidding war is not out of the question.
Best guess: He brings back a package devoid of any Top 100-caliber prospects, but one that does include a pair of second-tier prospects who project as solid MLB contributors and a lower-level piece or two with some intriguing upside.
Ahead, we've highlighted eight teams that make the most sense as potential landing spots, built out hypothetical return packages from those teams, and provided full analysis.
Let's start by eliminating some teams from the running.
Why Other Teams Were Not Included
Here's a quick-hit rundown of why the teams not included as potential landing spots were removed from the conversation:
- ARI: Rebuilding, non-contender
- ATL: Rotation already addressed
- BAL: Rebuilding, non-contender
- BOS: Unlikely to target short-term assets
- CIN: Shopping Sonny Gray
- CLE: Cutting costs
- COL: Lacking trade assets
- DET: Rebuilding, non-contender
- KC: Rebuilding, non-contender
- LAD: Already have six starters vying for five spots
- MIA: Unlikely to target short-term assets
- MIL: Lacking trade assets
- MIN: Poor first stint with team
- NYM: Focused on free-agent market
- OAK: Small-market team, unlikely to move controllable talent
- PIT: Rebuilding, non-contender
- SF: Unlikely to target short-term assets
- SEA: Unlikely to target short-term assets
- STL: Focused on upgrading offense
- TB: Small-market team, unlikely to move controllable talent
- WAS: More pressing needs
With Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks locked into the top two spots in the rotation and up-and-comers Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay on track to fill the No. 4 and 5 starter roles, Lynn would be the perfect short-term addition to round out the Chicago Cubs staff in 2021.
The Return Package
- C Ethan Hearn
- RHP Riley Thompson
- LHP Justin Steele
The Cubs gave prep catcher Ethan Hearn second-round money as a sixth-round pick in the 2019 draft, and he would be the prize of this return package.
The 20-year-old has well-round tools across the board with the raw power to be a 20-homer player in the majors, polished receiving skills and a rocket arm. Sam Huff is the catcher of the present and future in Texas, but an organization can never have too much quality catching talent.
Riley Thompson is still working toward his ceiling as a middle-of-the-rotation starter and has already made significant strides with his command. The 24-year-old went 8-6 with a 3.06 ERA and 87-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 94 innings at Single-A in 2019. His electric fastball-curveball combination would play up out of the bullpen if Texas wanted to put him on the fast track.
Lefty Justin Steele rounds out the package and still has intriguing upside despite a disappointing 2019 season and some injury issues. The 25-year-old has three plus pitches, a strong 6'2", 205-pound frame and No. 3 starter potential if everything clicks.
Cory Abbott is another arm the Rangers could target in place of one of the two pitchers proposed here. He doesn't offer the same ceiling, but he has a higher floor and is closer to the majors.
Chicago White Sox
Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel are a terrific one-two punch atop the Chicago White Sox rotation, and young right-handers Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning both showed potential in 2020. Another proven veteran starter like Lynn could be the missing piece on the South Side.
The Return Package
- RHP Jonathan Stiever
- 1B Gavin Sheets
- RHP Tyler Johnson
Jonathan Stiever separated himself from a pack of pitching prospects with similar profiles in the Chicago White Sox system in 2019 when he went 10-10 with a 3.48 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and a brilliant 154-to-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 145 innings between Single-A and High-A.
The 23-year-old has a polished four-pitch repertoire, plus command, clean mechanics and a strong 6'2", 215-pound frame. That checks all the boxes for him to be a middle-of-the-rotation workhorse, and he's ready to contribute in the majors after making his MLB debut in September.
Gavin Sheets has some of the best power in the Chicago farm system, but he's a first-base-only prospect and firmly blocked by Andrew Vaughn. As a 23-year-old at Double-A in 2019, he hit .267 with 18 doubles, 16 home runs and 83 RBI in 126 games.
At the very least, he's a viable platoon option at first base who can handle himself against right-handed pitching.
Former South Carolina closer Tyler Johnson rounds out the package. He has a 2.27 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 115 innings in three minor league seasons and could immediately compete for a spot in the MLB bullpen.
With Justin Verlander recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Astros rotation will feature Zack Greinke, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy. Slotting Lynn into the No. 2 starter spot ahead of those three young starters would provide some welcome stability to the staff.
The Return Package
- RHP Bryan Abreu
- OF Jordan Brewer
- SS Deury Carrasco
With a fastball that touches 97 mph, a 70-grade hammer curveball and a wipeout slider, Bryan Abreu has closer stuff and has already found some success in the majors. The 23-year-old has a 1.50 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 12 innings over 11 MLB appearances.
The Astros have tried developing him as a starter, and the idea is enticing, but he could fill a high-leverage spot in the MLB bullpen immediately and perhaps even close games if the Rangers decide to move Rafael Montero this winter.
Outfielder Jordan Brewer was a third-round pick in 2019 and offers average or better skills across the board, despite no clear standout tool. He hit .329/.389/.557 with 20 doubles, 12 home runs and 25 steals during his final season at the University of Michigan and he has the defensive chops to man all three outfield spots. At worst, he's a solid fourth outfielder in the majors.
Shortstop Deury Carrasco is a lottery ticket who has yet to make his full-season debut. The third piece here is a bit lighter than in the other trade proposals since Abreu is the best headliner of any package and a legitimate impact arm.
Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels need to add multiple starters this offseason if they are serious about making a playoff push. An in-division trade is less than ideal for both teams, but the fact that Lynn is a free agent next offseason likely means the Texas Rangers will be willing to listen.
The Return Package
- 2B Jahmai Jones
- SS Arol Vera
- RHP Stiward Aquino
Jahmai Jones once ranked as a Top 100 prospect leaguewide, checking in at No. 89 on the Baseball America Top 100 to begin the 2018 season.
His production has stalled in the upper levels of the minors, but he's still just 23 years old, and there is reason for optimism. He finished the 2018 season strong at Double-A and went 3-for-7 in a brief three-game debut in the majors in 2020. If the Rangers can find a way to unload Rougned Odor, he could step into the starting second base job.
Further down the developmental ladder, Arol Vera is a high-ceiling teenage prospect who signed for $2 million in 2019. He has a 55-grade hit tool, 50-grade power and the glove to stick at shortstop long-term, giving him perhaps the highest ceiling of any position-player prospect included in any of these proposals.
Stiward Aquino is a towering 6'6" right-hander with a big fastball and good curveball. The 21-year-old has thrown just 66 pro innings since signing in 2016, and he likely fits best in the bullpen long-term, but his upside is intriguing enough to be targeted as a third piece.
New York Yankees
It seems most New York Yankees fans do not have fond memories of Lynn's first go-around in pinstripes during the second half of the 2018 season. However, he finished with a 4.14 ERA (2.17 FIP) and 61 strikeouts in 54.1 innings, and that type of production over a full season would be a huge addition to a staff with multiple question marks behind ace Gerrit Cole.
The Return Package
- OF Estevan Florial
- RHP Miguel Yajure
- RHP Trevor Stephan
To the casual fan, the inclusion of Estevan Florial might seem like a massive overpay. The toolsy outfielder became a household name with a breakout 2017 season in the minors that sent him to the top of the organizational prospect rankings.
However, his prospect star has faded considerably in recent years, and he is no longer viewed as a top-tier prospect after hitting a lackluster .237/.297/.383 with a 32.6 percent strikeout rate at High-A. At this point, a change of scenery looks like the best course of action for everyone involved, and he still has enough upside to be a target for a Rangers team that has dealt with a revolving door in center field.
Miguel Yajure had a breakout 2019 season between High-A and Double-A, going 9-6 with a 2.14 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 133 strikeouts in 138.2 innings.
The 22-year-old does not have overpowering stuff, but his pitchability gives him back-of-the-rotation potential. He allowed three hits and one earned run in seven innings out of the MLB bullpen in his big league debut in 2020.
Rule 5 eligible right-hander Trevor Stephan rounds out the trade package. His deceptive mechanics and steeper downhill plane from a 6'5" frame help his average stuff play up, and he's ready to contribute in some capacity, whether it's as a back-end starter or middle reliever.
Lynn would fit perfectly in the No. 3 starter spot behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler that was previously occupied by Jake Arrieta. With all the money the Philadelphia Phillies have invested in their current core, they really have no choice but to continue their all-in approach to building a winner.
The Return Package
- LHP Damon Jones
- RHP Mauricio Llovera
- SS Nick Maton
If the Rangers' priority is bringing back MLB-ready talent, this will be a compelling package.
Southpaw Damon Jones has steadily outpitched his status as an 18th-round pick in 2017. The 26-year-old posted a 2.91 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 152 strikeouts in 114.1 innings over three minor league levels while reaching Triple-A in 2019, and he's ready to compete for an MLB rotation spot.
Likewise, right-hander Mauricio Llovera has consistently impressed since signing for just $7,500 in 2015, racking up 402 strikeouts in 372.2 innings in the minors.
The 24-year-old doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he generates a lot of weak contact, and the Phillies saw enough from him at Double-A in 2019 to call him up for his MLB debut in September. He took could contend for a rotation spot in 2021.
Middle infielder Nick Maton may ultimately fit best in a super-utility role, but he has shown a bit more than expected offensively since he was selected in the seventh round of the 2017 draft. He posted a .725 OPS with 27 extra-base hits and 12 steals in 114 games between High-A and Double-A in 2019 and offers solid defensive tools and a plus hit tool.
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres will need to add at least one quality arm after losing Mike Clevinger for the season. Dinelson Lamet, Zach Davies and Chris Paddack will occupy three spots in the rotation and uber prospect MacKenzie Gore should arrive at some point, but Lynn would help take some pressure off guys like Joey Lucchesi, Adrian Morejon and Luis Patino.
The Return Package
- IF Tucupita Marcano
- C Blake Hunt
- RHP Pedro Avila
In a San Diego system loaded with middle-infield talent, Tucupita Marcano has separated himself from the pack with a blend of hit tool, on-base ability, speed and defense.
The 21-year-old hit .366/.450/.438 with nine extra-base hits, 15 steals and more walks (30) than strikeouts (16) in his stateside debut in 2018, and he held his own while making the jump to Single-A in 2019.
Blake Hunt is something of a boom-or-bust prospect behind the plate based on the development of his hit tool. That said, he has shown a good approach with a 9.3 percent walk rate in three minor league seasons, and his power potential and stellar defensive profile give him everyday starter upside.
Catching talent is thin across baseball right now, and Hunt has a chance to be an impact backstop.
Right-hander Pedro Avila gives the Rangers an MLB-ready arm who has shown tremendous swing-and-miss potential in the minors. In 2017 and 2018, he combined for 312 strikeouts in 259.2 innings before Tommy John surgery limited him to 29.1 innings in 2019.
He's a bit undersized and doesn't have power stuff, but his results speak for themselves.
Toronto Blue Jays
Pairing Lynn with Hyun-Jin Ryu would give the Toronto Blue Jays two workhorse veterans to anchor a starting rotation that will also include some combination of Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark, Ross Stripling, Nate Pearson, Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay and Trent Thornton.
The Return Package
- SS Otto Lopez
- RHP Patrick Murphy
- C Riley Adams
Otto Lopez is a bit overshadowed in a Toronto system loaded with middle-infield talent, but he has significant upside in his own right.
He hit .324/.371/.425 with 30 extra-base hits and 20 steals in 108 games as a 20-year-old at Single-A in 2019, and his hit tool, gap power and speed should all play in the majors. He's not an ideal fit at shortstop, but he has the versatility to play all over the infield and all three outfield spots, and his bat should help carry his value.
Right-hander Patrick Murphy needs to sort out his mechanics, but his 60-grade fastball and 60-grade curveball give him late-inning potential in a relief role. That said, the Blue Jays have been developing him as a starter, and with a passable changeup and a sturdy 6'5", 235-pound frame, he could eventually slot in the middle of an MLB staff.
Riley Adams is an elite athlete for the catcher position and already has the defensive tools to be a backup in the majors.
At 24 years old, there's still time for him to take another step forward offensively, and he hit .261/.366/.443 with 18 doubles and 14 home runs between High-A and Double-A in 2019. It won't take more than average offensive production for him to be an everyday catcher thanks to his defensive tools.