The Mets are in the market for starting pitching and perhaps one of the better bang-for-your-buck options in free agency this year will be Lance Lynn. The towering right-hander is coming off a strong run with the Cardinals and is expected to net a 3-to-4 year deal with an average annual value around $15 million.
Lynn was a big question mark going into 2017 after missing all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, but he saw great success in his return, putting up a 3.43 ERA over 186 1/3 innings with a 1.229 WHIP. Like most of baseball, he saw his home run numbers rise, but not at an alarming rate. His walks were a bit high, not unusual for a pitcher settling in after a long hiatus, but he showed he still has the ability to induce weak contact.
That said, Lynn comes with his share of concerns, as will any pitcher on the wrong side of 30 with surgery in his past. The biggest red flag is a decline in his strikeout rate. Once capable of nearing 200 strikeouts in a season, Lynn struck out a career-low 7.4 batters per 9 innings in 2017, without the corresponding improvement in his walk rate that many pitchers show as they shift from power pitching to finesse pitching as they age.
Batters this season were better able to lay off Lynn's pitches out of the zone and more likely to make contact with them when they did swing. His sinker, which he used much more than ever before, was responsible for much of this, and the team that brings him on should be looking at an adjustment to his pitch selection.
Additionally, a team like the Mets that has had trouble keeping pitchers healthy may want to avoid an arm with recent Tommy John surgery. But if they are open to considering a player who doesn't necessarily fit the mold, they may find that Lynn is more of an innings-eater than they'd expect given the injury. At 6'5" and 280 pounds, Lynn is sturdily build and his mechanics are clean.
With the exception of his 2016 Tommy John recovery, Lynn has never made fewer than 31 starts in a season and never missed significant time due to injury. He is no longer a reliable 200-inning pitcher, but those are few and far between in today's game, and there is great value in someone who can be depended on for 180 quality innings.
Any team putting a price tag on Lynn will be considering two main questions: will his strikeouts and walks improve once he is another year removed from surgery? And regardless of if they do, will he continue to manage contact this well? If the answer to either is yes, Lynn may have one of the highest ceilings of any pitcher in this price bracket, with relatively -- for a pitcher -- little risk.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring