With the White Sox still in need of help in the starting rotation and Lance Lynn once again available on the trade market, it’s worth exploring what a trade between the White Sox and Rangers might look like.
There was smoke around the White Sox having an interest in Lance Lynn this summer near the trade deadline, but nothing ever culminated in a deal between the two sides. Lynn, 33, would be a rental for the White Sox in 2021, but an affordable rental at just $9.3 million, according to Fangraphs’ Roster Resource tool.
For the White Sox, it’s pretty simple — they desperately need to add another legitimate top-to-middle of the rotation starting pitcher before the 2021 season begins. White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino proclaimed that it’s, “World Series or bust,” for the Sox in 2021 during recent media availability. If that’s the case, then they need another arm.
Trevor Bauer is a nice aspiration, but this isn’t our first rodeo with this franchise and their penchant for getting out-bid in free-agency for the big-ticket players — or simply sitting out on them.
Enter Lance Lynn, a 33-year-old pitcher who brings nothing in the way of flashiness like the majority of the young White Sox core, but rather looks more like your typical White Sox fan who can often be found pounding domestic beers and Malört in Lot B or Section 108 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
What Lynn does bring to the table is a track record of consistency and a price point that works for the White Sox. Lynn is set to make $9.3 million in 2021 — the final year of his three-year deal with the Rangers — and has a career 104-71 record to go along with a 3.57 ERA (3.62 FIP), 9.47 K/9, and a 0.85 HR9 over the course of 1,426.2 innings of work.
Honestly, from the consistently-good-but-not-flashy resume, to the gut being as big as the beard, Lance Lynn screams White Sox pitcher.
He’s cheap, he’s reliable, and he’s not going to block any long-term plans the White Sox have with their glut of talented pitching prospects who just aren’t quite ready yet.
Baseball Trade Values lists Lynn’s median estimated trade value at 15.1, with his low-high end estimation ranging from 12.1 to 18.1. The depressed starting pitching market will drive up the prices on trades for proven starting pitchers, so I’m going to use Lynn’s high-end estimation of 18.1 as my baseline for this exercise.
Stiever was 10-10 with a 3.48 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 154 strikeouts, and 27 walks in 145 innings in 2019, splitting time between Kannapolis (Low-A), and Winston-Salem (High-A). Stiever even made a pair of starts for the White Sox down the stretch in 2020, but clearly needs some more time at the advanced levels of the minors.
Johnson has 169 strikeouts and a 2.27 ERA in 115 innings over parts of three seasons in the White Sox farm system.
The Rangers receive the White Sox’s No. 7 prospect in Stiever, and Johnson is ranked No. 24 in the system according to MLB Pipeline. A pair of starting pitchers with upside seems like a fair starting point for a team looking to rebuild or re-tool in the next couple of seasons.
While I thought nothing of including Vaughn and Cease in my mock trade for Blake Snell, this is a significantly different conversation. Snell is a 28-year-old left-hander with three years remaining on a super team-friendly contract extension. Lynn is likely nothing more than a one-year rental, one who would provide the White Sox a steadying force in the middle of the rotation in 2021. He’s provide new pitching coach Ethan Katz time to work with the young pitchers the organization envisions as mainstays in their long-term rotation plans.
So, no Texas, you’re not getting any of those three players. However, I would come up from my initial offer of Stiever and Johnson and agree on any of the following packages.
Package No. 1
White Sox Receive
- Lancy Lynn (RHP)
In this package I up the return for Texas to include Dane Dunning instead of Jonathan Stiever. Dunning was great in his short stint with the White Sox in 2020, pitching to the tune of a 3.97 ERA (3.99 FIP) over seven starts (34 IP).
Dunning is a former first-round pick of the Washington Nationals in 2016 and looks to be a shoo-in as a middle-bottom of the rotation mainstay depending on the team he’s pitching for.
Adolfo is a power-hitting outfield prospect who ranks ninth in the Chicago farm system according to MLB Pipeline who possesses a 50-grade power tool and according to Pipeline, “generates well above-average raw power with bat speed, strength and the loft and leverage in his right-handed swing.”
Adolfo has had his share of injury setbacks in the Chicago farm system but appears to be completely healthy heading into 2021.
Package No. 2
White Sox Receive
- Lance Lynn (RHP)
As previously noted, Stiever is one of the more intriguing prospects in the White Sox farm system after a fantastic 2019 season and a pandemic year in 2020 that saw him make a pair of starts for the White Sox and spend the rest of the summer working with their best prospects at the alternate sight in Schaumburg all summer.
Thompson was a prep pitcher drafted No. 45 overall by the White Sox in 2019 who is ranked eighth in the Chicago farm (right behind Stiever) according to MLB Pipeline. Thompson owns a 60-grade fastball that hit 95 miles per hour World Wood Bat Association World Championships as a high school junior in 2017.
Sheets was drafted by the White Sox as a power-hitting first-base prospect from Wake Forest in the 2017 MLB Draft and had a strong 2019 with Double-A Birmingham in which he slashed .267/.345/.414 with 16 home runs and 83 RBI with a wRC+ of 122.
Package No. 3
White Sox Receive
- Lance Lynn (RHP)
- Joey Gallo (OF/DH)
- Jared Kelley (RHP)
- Gavin Sheets (1B/DH)
Here’s where Texas gets the most value in return, but also sends the White Sox a fit for their RF/DH void in 2021.
The Rangers are essentially swapping a starting pitcher and slugger that are at the end of their contract control periods with a starting pitcher and a slugging prospect who fit their long-term outlook much better as they enter a rebuilding period.
Kelley was the White Sox second-rounder in 2020 and quite arguably the best prep arm available in the draft. The 19-year-old with the heavy fastball is a Texas native and is ranked sixth in the White Sox farm system according to MLB Pipeline, and could eventually emerge as a mainstay in the top of the Rangers’ rotation when they’re once again ready to compete.
The same can be said for Sheets (probably a year or two sooner) who as previously noted finally rediscovered his power stroke in 2019 with the Double-A Birmingham Barons.
I know that some of these names make White Sox fans cringe, but you have to understand that the club is going to be trading from a position of depth within their system, and that’s pitching.
You want to win a World Series? Deals like these are a part of the process.
Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News