Lynn trade 'could cause a domino effect'

Execs weigh in on market for starting pitching

December 8th, 2020

The early action on the free-agent market was centered around starting pitching, with Charlie Morton, Mike Minor, Drew Smyly and Robbie Ray all landing new deals.

Another starter relocated for 2021 on Monday, as Lance Lynn was traded from the Rangers to the White Sox, who sent Dane Dunning and another pitching prospect to Texas for the All-Star right-hander.

The impact for the White Sox is obvious, as Chicago added Lynn to a rotation topped by and . But what type of impact could the move have on the market for high-end starting pitchers?

“I suppose it could cause a domino effect,” one American League executive said. “It puts the spotlight more on the top free agents.”

Trevor Bauer still tops that list for obvious reasons; the reigning National League Cy Young winner is far and away the best pitcher available, though his price tag will seemingly limit his market to teams willing to spend big this winter.

After Bauer, , Masahiro Tanaka and are the best of the rest, a trio of pitchers capable of filling a Nos. 2 or 3 rotation spot for a contending team. Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman would have been part of this group, but they took themselves out of that market early, accepting qualifying offers from their current clubs.

Tomoyuki Sugano, a two-time winner of the Sawamura Award as Japan’s best pitcher, was posted this week by the Yomiuri Giants, adding a very intriguing arm to the market. Kohei Arihara, another prominent Japanese pitcher, was also recently posted by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Then there’s the trade market, which potentially includes Cincinnati’s and Tampa Bay’s . Both All-Star pitchers have multiple years left on their respective contracts; Gray is owed $20 million over the next two years (with a $12 million club option for 2023), while Snell has $39 million left on his deal, which runs through ’23.

The Rangers were able to land a solid, big league ready arm (Dunning, who slots in as Texas’ No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline) in exchange for one year of Lynn. Given the contractual situations of Gray and Snell, their current teams should be able to do better if they decide to move them.

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At least five other teams had talked to Texas about Lynn before he was traded Monday.

“Those teams now have to consider other options,” said an industry source.

The teams making the most aggressive push to add starting pitching are the Mets, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Padres, Angels, Giants and Rays, per sources, and while Lynn, Morton, Smyly, Minor and Ray had been options before, that’s no longer the case.

“I think the same group of teams that were going to be in play for a trade or signing of a starting pitcher will still be the same,” an NL executive said. “The chairs may have just shuffled a bit.”

With so many teams in need of rotation help, the available starters should have myriad options to consider in the days and weeks ahead.

“There’s so much uncertainty in this year’s market,” another NL executive said. “But starting pitching seems to be the one area that won’t be hurt by anything that’s going on. Everybody needs pitching.”