Baseball has never seen a free agent period quite like this one. Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to Spring Training camps around the league next week, yet eight of the ten players that MLB Trade Rumors pegged as the top free agents available when winter began remain unsigned, as do dozens upon dozens of other MLB-quality players.
The Milwaukee Brewers have cast a wide net in their search for pitching upgrades and as a result, have been linked to every top arm that remains on the open market. Yesterday’s news revealed that the club has submitted a nine-figure offer for Yu Darvish to consider, and according to Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Brewers have shown continuing interest in right-hander Lance Lynn, as well.
Lynn, who will turn 31 in May, is a free agent for the first time after spending the first seven years of his big league career in a Cardinals’ uniform. He missed all of the 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery but has been a steady performer outside of that - since 2011, he’s tossed 977.2 innings with a 3.38 ERA and 92 DRA-. He has never posted an ERA above 3.97 and save for the year he missed with his elbow injury, he has logged at least 175 innings in each of his full seasons.
Lynn’s heavy reliance on his fastball and declining peripherals - a 97 DRA- and career-worsts of 7.4 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, and 1.3 HR/9 in 2017 - have to this point given MLB teams reason to balk at offering the multiyear contact that Lynn is reportedly seeking. Indeed, he is projected by PECOTA for a 4.47 ERA and just 0.8 WARP across 121.0 innings in 2018, hardly the numbers of a difference-maker. MLBTR predicted him to land a four year contract for $56 mil at the beginning of the winter, and while the Brewers still appear to be comfortable shelling out that level of cash to sign someone, they may not be willing to do so for Lance Lynn. According to Gould, while Milwaukee remains in touch with Lynn’s representatives, the franchise is more focused on exploring trade opportunities at this time.
Gould mentions the Rays and Brewers have reportedly been talking and specifically mentions Jake Odorizzi as a possibility. The Rays still need to trim some payroll and Odorizzi will earn over $6 mil in 2018 coming off a season in which he posted a 4.14 ERA and 100 DRA- across 143.1 innings. PECOTA doesn’t see much difference between his performance and Lynn’s for the upcoming season; Odorizzi is projected to produce a 4.45 ERA and 0.6 WARP while logging 150.0 innings.
David Stearns has never been one to put all of his eggs into one basket and various reports indicate that he’s still exploring a wide range of potential transactions before the start of the season. Yesterday’s Darvish report also indicated that the team continues to on-going discussion with Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb, and they have also been linked to Odorizzi’s Tampa Bay teammate Chris Archer, Cleveland’s Danny Salazar, and Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks over the last few weeks.
Some notable PECOTA projections:— Brew Crew Ball (@BrewCrewBall) February 9, 2018
Darvish: 155 IP, 3.60 ERA, 2.5 WARP
Arrieta: 147.1, 3.69, 2.6
Cobb: 128.1, 4.92, 0.4
Lynn: 121, 4.47, 0.8
Archer: 176.1, 3.23, 3.5
Odorizzi: 150, 4.45, 0.6
Salazar: 132.2, 3.14, 2.7
Fulmer: 180, 4.44, 1.8
P. Corbin: 168, 3.99, 1.8
Slingin’ Stearns attempted to dismiss the notion that his team needs to add pitching earlier this week, saying that he’s comfortable entering camp next week with the players currently under contract. But where there is smoke there’s typically fire, and it would be a surprise to this analyst if Milwaukee fails to make at least one more addition to their starting rotation before the start of the regular season.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus