Yankees: No, NYY shouldn’t have signed Lance Lynn over JA Happ
Saying the Yankees should’ve extended Lance Lynn after his 2018 is such a retroactive post-mortem opinion that it doesn’t even deserve examination.
For a record 15th consecutive season, the New York Yankees are in the market for a viable and consistent No. 2 starter — and no, 2009 AJ Burnett doesn’t count.
Luckily, there might be a temporary end to that quest in sight.
Fans and media members alike are once again buzzing about someone taking the final year of Lance Lynn’s extremely reasonable contract off the hands of the Texas Rangers, and it might be time to start arguing for a reunion in the Bronx. We love it! Lynn’s been a gregarious bulldog with a high-spin fastball, allowed to “be himself” for the past two seasons in Texas, and he’d be a fantastic fit behind Gerrit Cole.
Unfortunately, a reemergence of the Lynn rumors has led to a segment of the discourse rearing its ugly head from back in 2018, so we feel like we have to address it. No, the Yankees did not make a mistake letting Lynn walk following the ’18 season, when he was so inconsistent in his 1.5 months of action that he found himself relegated to the bullpen mid-blowout in the ALDS. Next question.
After looking back on the 2019 and 2020 seasons the two men had, it’s clear that Lynn, who’s finished in the top six in Cy Young voting in consecutive seasons, would’ve been the more prudent addition than JA Happ, who would still be stuck to the roster if the Yankees hadn’t wriggled out of his pandemic incentives.
But at the end of the 2018 season, when decisions had to be made, things looked very different. And chastising Brian Cashman for pulling the trigger on the “wrong” option is an argument that only works now, replete with the knowledge of how the past two seasons turned out. Congratulations on being able to make a difficult decision with the small added benefit of two full years of future data.
Lynn was in the midst of his worst-ever pro season when the Yankees acquired him from Minnesota, a victim of a stagnant free agent market that forced him to sit out until midway through the year (sound familiar?). After Cashman took a flyer on him, he delivered a few dogged starts in pinstripes, but the bloom came off his rose quickly, and he staggered to the finish line. Lynn allowed five, five, three, and six earned runs in a four-start stretch that ran him through early September, going no more than 5.2 innings in any outing. He then calmed down a bit, but still provided next to no length, never topping six complete innings. In those days, he was pitching to contact, and was a two-month roller coaster ride that finished with a relegation to mop-up duty when the bright lights turned on.
Happ? We probably wouldn’t have extended him either, but he carried the Yankees down the stretch in ’18 with a 7-0 record and 2.69 ERA. When Happ hit free agency, he was the Yankees’ best rostered starter; Lynn was an afterthought whose bags were already packed before Game 4. It’s revisionist history to even consider his departure a mistake, let alone a grave error in judgment. Retaining Lynn for $30 million wasn’t even a part of the conversation — and, knowing the Yankees, wouldn’t have stopped them from their Happ pursuit, and probably would’ve resulted in them choosing not to pursue Gerrit Cole.
Arguing, in earnest, that the Yankees made a massive miscalculation in letting Lynn go is like sobbing about the team’s decision to trade a young Jose Quintana. Sometimes things happen! But these weren’t coin flips that went the wrong way; they were decisions you’d only bother to decry years after the fact.
Lynn has grown into a remarkably effective and durable starter over the past two years in Texas. In fact, he’s basically been viable…every year of his career, save for 2018. We’d welcome him back with open arms, and we’re sure Matt Blake would, too (that’s right, Lance, the bad man is gone now).
But two years ago, when we let him walk, there was simply no way to assume he’d quickly put together the second-best four-seam fastball on the market behind our current ace. And re-litigating that non-pursuit is foolhardy.