SF Giants: Was the Lance Lynn Trade a Missed Opportunity?
By Jeff Young
Right-handed hurler Lance Lynn was a potential SF Giants trade target, but he has since been shipped to the Chicago White Sox. Was this a missed opportunity?
The SF Giants have long been connected to starting pitcher Lance Lynn, including while he was a free agent in 2018. Rumored to be available on the trade market this offseason, he was an obvious trade target. However, the White Sox won the prize as they acquired the 33-year-old from the Texas Rangers in exchange for Dane Dunning and pitching prospect Avery Weems.
Lynn was an attractive trade target as he prepares to enter the final year of a three-year, $30 million contract he signed with the Rangers in 2018. Since inking that deal, Lynn has been excellent as he has registered a 3.57 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 1.17 WHIP, and a 23.4 percent strikeout rate against an 8.7 percent walk rate while being worth 7.2 WAR.
Lynn not only generates strikeouts at a healthy clip, but he effectively generates weak contact as he has posted a 43.9 percent groundball rate in nine major league seasons. To put it differently, he is good at pitching. It is no surprise that he was in demand this offseason. While the Rangers were looking to shed Lynn’s 2021 salary commitment as they scale down their payroll, they were not just going to give away the right-handed hurler.
The cost was steep given Dunning’s pedigree as a former first-round pick and being ranked as high as the 76th best prospect in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus before the 2019 season. The University of Florida product debuted with the White Sox in 2020 where he posted a 3.97 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 1.11 WHIP, and a solid 2.69 SO/W ratio.
However, Chicago pulled the plug on the 25-year-old after only 34 innings in an effort to better position themselves for a run in 2021. They obviously are sacrificing plenty of long-term control, but probably improved their team in 2021. On top of this, the White Sox shipped off a solid prospect in Weems as well. Weems only has 60.1 innings of pro innings under his belt where he has produced 2.09 ERA.
Since the Giants are in need of pitching help, did they miss an opportunity to add a reliable arm at an affordable rate?
For starters, the Giants would have had to part with one of their top prospects as the White Sox did with Dunning. Logan Webb is the only young starter the Giants have comparable to Dunning, but even he has been less effective and never had Dunning’s prospect status. In terms of how the industry views the Giants prospects, Alexander Canario might offer comparable value to Dunning in a trade.
The 20-year-old outfield prospect was working through the lower minor league levels in 2019, but Eric Logenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs liked Canario’s tools:
"“This is a risky corner bat, but Canario has potential middle-of-the-order talent because of the raw power and a good chance to get to it in games because his swing has natural lift. There’s huge ceiling if the hit/approach component improves.”"
Yet, even then, Canario suffered a torn labrum late this year and already carried a pretty sizable amount of risk, given how far away he is from pro ball. Dunning has that prospect pedigree with far less risk.
San Francisco would probably have needed to add a potential low-leverage reliever with intrigue such as Matt Frisbee to sweeten the deal. Frisbee generated a 3.17 ERA in 22 appearances with a sterling 5.95 SO/W ratio with the Giants Single-A affiliate in San Jose in 2019.
With Canario, the Giants would need to part with a potential impact bat, whereas with Frisbee, they may give up a back-end starter or multi-inning reliever. This would be a lot of future value for one season of Lynn. Still, a Canario and Frisbee package might be less preferable than Dunning and Weems to Texas. It might have taken Webb and Canario to top the offer, and that would have made a move even riskier.
The SF Giants are still looking to rebuild their rotation, but the rotation and bullpen are far from being a threat in the playoffs as currently constructed. Adding Lynn would have been a nice move, but the cost would have been too much for a team that is not necessarily in the competitive cycle yet.