Lance Lynn Legitimizes the White Sox World Series Aspirations

The White Sox landed their man late Monday night, when the news broke they had acquired veteran starter Lance Lynn from the Texas Rangers in exchange for Dane Dunning and Avery Weems.

Dunning, 25, was the right-hander who former skipper Ricky Renteria yanked from his Game 3 start in the 2020 American League Wild Card Series against the Oakland Athletics after just two-thirds of an inning. It was a game-day decision to give Dunning the ball with the White Sox facing elimination with their two best pitchers already spent for that series. A leadoff single to center field by Tommy La Stella and a two-out line drive single by Mark Canha was all that Renteria needed to see that afternoon.

Renteria went to Garrett Crochet in favor of Dunning, and well, we know how the rest of the story goes. It ended with the White Sox knowing that acquiring a proven starting pitcher was priority number one this winter. In poetic fashion, it’s Dunning who they used to net them that proven starter.

Photo: Kelley L Cox / USA TODAY

Now, save for a couple smaller needs, the White Sox are looking like a team that can legitimately be considered World Series contenders. Veteran White Sox scribe Scott Merkin reported late Monday that the team is still actively looking to address their needs in right field and additionally add an established reliever to the back end of the bullpen.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported on Monday morning that the White Sox were one of three teams linked to Joc Pederson, a pursuit that they’ve flirted with for each of the past two offseasons, so that makes perfect sense.

Lynn, 33, is set to make $9.3 million in 2021 — the final year of his three-year deal signed 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.

Photo: Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News

Over the past two seasons, Lynn’s 8.3 fWAR ranked fifth in baseball behind Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, Shane Bieber, and Max Scherzer. Current White Sox ace Lucas Giolito ranks seventh on that list with 7.0 fWAR. Over that last three seasons, Lynn ranks in the top-25 in K/9 (9.94, 22nd), FIP (3.57, 22nd), IP (449.0, 11th), and HR/9 (0.96, 11th).

Oh, and as The Dugout’s Xavier Sanchez pointed out on Twitter, he’s pretty good (10-6, 20 GS, 3.54 ERA, 122 IP, 47 BB, 96 K, 1.34 WHIP, and 7.1 K/9) against American League Central teams too.

Even at 33, Lynn hasn’t seen a decline in his four-seam fastball velocity, in fact, he’s seen a slight increase. He’s averaging 95 miles per hour on his four-seamer in each of the past two seasons with Texas and pairs it with a cutter, sinker, and curveball, along with the occasional slider.

The only downside to the deal might be the fact that Lynn is only under contract for one more season, an area of ire for some people offering their reactions to the trade.

Dane Dunning had an impressive cup of coffee with the White Sox in 2020, but he’s a 25-year-old prospect whom the White Sox identified as the most expendable in their glut of young pitching prospects. We know that new pitching coach Ethan Katz is already working remotely with Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease, two guys who figure to have a rotation spot in 2021 and well beyond. That left Dunning without a guaranteed role on this team for the majority of the season with the addition of a veteran starter.

This is the price of doing business in baseball, and more specifically, the price of doing business when you’re in the business of winning World Series Championships.

To borrow from a column that I wrote in late November, the Cubs dealt Gleyber Torres for Aroldis Chapman in 2016 to win a World Series. The Astros did the same in 2017 when they shipped Franklin Perez, outfielder Daz Cameron, and catcher Jake Rogers — Houston’s No. 3, 9, and 11 prospects at the time — to Detroit in exchange for Justin Verlander. Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in five regular-season starts, and then won World Series MVP honors.

In 2018 the Red Sox won the World Series with a guy named Chris Sale leading their rotation, the same Chris Sale that they traded Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech for in 2016.

The Nationals didn’t have a signature trade like the previous three World Series Champions, but they went the route of a $185 million payroll that was largely allocated to a rotation that featured Max ScherzerStephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin.

In 2020 the Dodgers finally got over the hump and won their first World Series since 1988, led by superstar outfielder Mookie Betts. The Dodgers had to give up Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, Kenta Maeda, Connor Wong, and Jair Camargo to land Betts, and then handed Betts a monstrous 12-year, $365 million extension to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy.

Dunning will likely be a solid starting pitcher for the Texas Rangers moving forward, but the White Sox are primed to win a championship, and win one now. Lance Lynn is a proven commodity, one with 26 postseason appearances and a World Series ring — that he won in 2011 as a rookie playing for Tony La Russa and the St. Louis Cardinals — on his resume.

We knew the day would come when the White Sox would use a beloved prospect in a deal like this, and it does feel kind of icky. It’s also the price of admission to the big boy table in baseball.

The only currency greener than cash in the world of baseball is prospects. For the Chicago White Sox, Dane Dunning was the price to pay in going from a team that can compete within its division, to a team that can win big games in October. On the quest for their first World Series Championship in 16 seasons, it was the appropriate gamble to make.

Featured Photo: Associated Press/David Zalubowski

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