St. Louis Cardinals: Trade deadline and Lance Lynn part one

BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 18: Lance Lynn
BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 18: Lance Lynn /

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, many question still need to be answered by the St. Louis Cardinals about starting pitcher, Lance Lynn.

It’s been a long two days since the trade deadline. Like most of you, I, too, still have questions about the St. Louis Cardinals. Why did they not make a move? Who was really available to other teams? What can we expect from here on out? I plan to discuss those later in articles, but for right now, I want to focus on starting pitcher, Lance Lynn.

For many weeks, and in my case for months, speculation over Lance Lynn’s future was at an all-time high. Countless teams showed interest in the right-handed pitcher, including the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, and Kansas City Royals. But as we saw on Monday, the right-hander was correct in his prediction of staying with the team.

So, where do we go from here? You could ask hundreds of questions about the trade deadline and Lance Lynn, but I’ve decided to discuss the three most important to me.

  1. Was Lynn’s price tag too high?
  2. What are the options with Lance Lynn and the St. Louis Cardinals?
  3. What affect do Lynn’s plans with the team have on the team next year and beyond?

Since there is plenty of material to cover in all three questions, I’ve also decided to make a three-part series to adequately cover the questions. Parts two and three will come out later this week and over the weekend.

Sky high price?

Like many of you, I had a constant eye on Twitter all day on Monday, checking and begging for any sign of what the St. Louis Cardinals might do. With all the news surrounding Lance Lynn, it was hard to imagine the Cardinals not do anything with him.

For instance, at one point, Ken Rosenthal pointed out the Cardinals may not extend a qualifying offer to Lance Lynn at season’s end if they kept him. Then, on Monday, Buster Olney tweeted the industry believed Lance Lynn fit best with the Cleveland Indians.

"Complex equation for #STLCards. Want to improve for now and future. Need bullpen help to make run. Unlikely to make Lynn qualifying offer.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 27, 2017Complex equation for #STLCards. Want to improve for now and future. Need bullpen help to make run. Unlikely to make Lynn qualifying offer.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 27, 2017"

"Sources: #STLCards’ decision on trading Lynn will be based entirely on whether team gets right offer – not Waino injury, not latest surge.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 27, 2017Sources: #STLCards’ decision on trading Lynn will be based entirely on whether team gets right offer – not Waino injury, not latest surge.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 27, 2017"

"Speculation within the industry that Lance Lynn might fit best with the Cleveland Indians.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 31, 2017Speculation within the industry that Lance Lynn might fit best with the Cleveland Indians.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 31, 2017"

Add those two statements with the fact Lynn started a game just a day before the deadline, and it’s no wonder no one really knew what was going on with the starting pitcher. I’m sure many of you, just like most of us at Redbird Rants, were skeptical of Lynn moving at all after his start. I mean what team trading for Lynn would truly let him start before the deadline, risking the chance of getting hurt, right?

Even with his start, Lynn was as available as ever to teams looking for a boost in their rotation. As time passed on Monday, it seemed every starting pitcher available would not be moved. It wasn’t until the last hour of the trade deadline, in typical fashion, Sonny Gray and Yu Darvish switched teams. Once the domino that was Sonny Gray fell, the panic and wonder set in for St. Louis Cardinals’ fans.

However, much like the rest of the day, disappointment set in when 3:00 pm came and went for the Cardinals. There was no sign of a deal for Lance Lynn. There was no sign of a last-minute deal that had yet to be reported. The trade deadline was over as quick as it came.

Related Story: Cards were staying put the whole time

After learning no move was going to happen regarding Lance Lynn, the first question that came to mind was his price too high?

Two of the three pitchers dealt, Gray and Darvish, were definitely going to move this trade deadline. Both the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers had commodities, in Gray and Darvish respectively, used to enhance future of their clubs. But surely the Cardinals could find a trade partner for Lynn, right?

In the deal for Sonny Gray, the New York Yankees parted ways with Jorge Mateo, their 4th overall prospect, Dustin Fowler, and James Kaprielian. The trade, which I believe favors the Yankees, made sense for both teams involved. The A’s were going nowhere and the Yankees needed starting pitching badly.

For those three minor leaguers, the Yankees now have Gray for a total of two years of arbitration before becoming a free agent in 2020.

Darvish, who also becomes a free agent after this season like Lynn, moved to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the deadline. In the deal, the Dodgers gave up prospects Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy, and Brendon Davis. Calhoun is the closest of the three to being MLB-ready. The Dodgers are in win-now mode and did not have to give up top prospect, Alex Verdugo.

I still think the Rangers won this trade, but if the Dodgers win the World Series behind Darvish and Clayton Kershaw, who cares.

The Gray trade was a more balanced trade than the Darvish deal, however I wonder if the Cardinals had something like what the Rangers received on the table? While Darvish is arguably the better pitcher than Lynn, there wasn’t that much separation, right?

Based on the two graphs, both Darvish and Lynn are having similar seasons. Lynn’s ERA is lower than Darvish’s by almost a full point, but in ten fewer innings. Darvish has more strikeouts over the course of the season.

One thing many might point out is the amount of earned runs Darvish has given up compared to Lynn, sixty-one to forty-five. While that is a telling sign of how a pitcher has performed, advance metrics tell a slightly different story.

Using Fangraphs, I took a look at both pitchers this season to see just how similar, or different, their seasons have been.

The first metric I looked at was FIP. If you’re unfamiliar with FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), it is a statistic used to calculate a pitcher’s performance outside of what their defense does in a single game. So far in 2017, Darvish posts a 3.99 FIP, while Lynn boasts a whopping 4.83, almost a full point more.

How does that translate to the rest of MLB?

At the top of the leaderboard stands Chris Sale, with a FIP of 2.09. Darvish and Lynn sit at 27th and 56th, respectively. Based on FIP, you would argue Darvish has the truer performance to his skill than what ends p happening in the game. As the statistic says, the environment and defense change every game.

The statistic, however, measures the pitcher’s performance alone, and it’s clear Darvish performs at a higher rate.

So while Lynn’s ERA is lower than Darvish’s, one could argue that defense and environment truly assist Lynn more in his performances. It’s just slightly ironic to heap praise on the St. Louis Cardinals’ defense, given what they have done so far this season.

The next metric I looked at was WAR. According to Fangraphs, Darvish has posted a 2.4 WAR so far this season. this will only go up considering the team he just joined. On the other hand, Lynn’s WAR, according to Fangraphs, is only at 0.9. While it’s clear how much difference there is  between the two pitchers, the leader board amplifies it even more.

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Once again, Chris Sale sits atop the leaderboard in WAR with 6.5. That is almost three times the amount of WAR Darvish has and is seven times more than Lynn.

Both Darvish’s and Lynn’s WAR place them 19th and 54th in the leaderboards. Essentially, Darvish would be two times better than the average pitcher, while Lynn is essentially an average pitcher.

Do I believe Lynn is an average pitcher? I’d like to think no. He has proven time and time again his value to the St. Louis Cardinals by eating innings and having a winning mentality.

However, the numbers don’t lie. While the seasons look the same, it’s clear Darvish is the better pitcher with more upside. Given that, if Darvish commanded the prospects he did, then one would have to assume Lynn would only fetch a prospect, at best two.

Knowing what the Dodgers gave up for Darvish, makes me believe the Cardinals asking price for Lynn may have been too high. If the Cardinals were seriously considering moving Lynn, just look at the types of prospects the A’s and Rangers received.

If the Cardinals received any offer like that, they would have been crazy not to take the deal. John Mozeliak came out and said the Cardinals did not find a suitable partner in trade discussions.

If that is the case, as well, then  it’s clear the asking price was too high for Lynn. We know he wouldn’t command three  prospects, but my gut is telling me the Cardinals were looking to add a high-end prospect like Calhoun and Mateo alone. Even for a rental like Lynn, that is too high of price for teams like the Dodgers or Yankees.

I can only imagine what the Cardinals asked for from other teams. As I mentioned the other teams, the Houston Astros, Royals, and Indians, all had interest.

If you really want to point the blame somewhere, he is where it should go: Lance Lynn is a rental piece and the teams were interested, but didn’t need him. Remember Lynn is a rental piece who will be a free agent at the end of this year. I just pointed out the only other rental pitcher traded was hands down better.

But does that mean a team didn’t really want him or need him? Well, no, however the last team I mentioned in the paragraph above probably didn’t need him.

While you can never have too much starting pitching, the Cleveland Indians didn’t need a starter because they just got Danny Salazar back from injury. The interest was more than likely fueled by the Royals interest in Lynn. Why wouldn’t the Indians try to up the price for the Royals to deplete their farm system of the next couple of seasons?

Speaking of the Royals, while their rotation does need more pitching, they just traded for Trevor Cahill and Melky Cabrera. That tells me one thing: The Royals do not have anything worth Lance Lynn in their farm system. That is more a given though, considering what they paid for Johnny Cueto in 2015.

The Astros, meanwhile, do intrigue me slightly. While there were reports about the Astros’ interest in Lynn, it never materialized into anything more than that. However, out of the teams I listed that could have used quality pitching, it would have been the Astros. Instead, they picked up Francisco Liriano? Yeah, I don’t know either.

Liriano can be good, if healthy, but Lynn has shown he is healthy. Lynn is clear-cut better than Liriano so it just was very odd to see that happen. My guess is the Astros didn’t want to give too much to the Cardinals, which still leads me to conclude the price for Lynn was too high.

There is one thing that does puzzle me, though. Now that the trade deadline has passed, I truly do wonder whether Lynn was on the table. I know he was shopped around, but surely the Cardinals recognized a chance to bolster their farm system in a thought to maybe bolster the big league squad.

We discussed whether Lynn was on the trade block on our recent podcast episode, and even though I’ll still wonder, I’ll agree with my co-writers Josh and Trevor and say he was truly on the market, but  nothing happened. Was it because the price was too high? We may never know, unfortunately.

Next: Cards still have a chance

I think Lynn’s price was way too high, but what does that say about the plans the St. Louis Cardinals have for the starting pitcher? Part two will discuss those options and more later this week. Thanks for reading!