What would a Lynn trade have looked like for the St. Louis Cardinals?

HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 03: Lance Lynn #35 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 03, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Houston won 8-4. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 03: Lance Lynn #35 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 03, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Houston won 8-4. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

Former St. Louis Cardinals starter Lance Lynn was just traded from the Rangers to the White Sox. What would a comparable deal have been for the Cards?

For much of the early 2010s, Lance Lynn was a fixture in the St. Louis Cardinals’ starting rotation. After debuting in 2011 and famously being called into a game on accident in the playoffs, Lynn turned himself into a very solid middle-of-the-rotation arm that fans were glad to have.

From 2012-2015, Lynn appeared in 132 games with a 3.38 ERA in St. Louis. In this time he averaged 189 innings per year and he cemented himself as a bulldog pitcher who threw a ton of fastballs.

After being injured in 2016, Lynn had a solid final year in St. Louis in 2017 where almost all of his peripheral stats suggested a huge backward slide was coming. Lynn’s ERA normally outperformed his FIP, but in 2017 the difference was by over an entire run.

Combining that FIP/ERA difference with Lynn’s drop in fastball velo and the Cardinals thanked him on his way out of the door into free agency. Fast forward a couple of years and Lynn has reinvented himself.

He’s back to being a burly guy on the mound, but the results are there. After signing a three-year/$30M with the Rangers in 2019, Lynn has finished 6th and 5th in Cy Young voting. Now, he has been traded to the White Sox for a very solid return.

On the second day of 2020’s abnormal Winter Meetings, Lynn was the biggest piece of news. From the White Sox, the Rangers got back two young pitchers, Dane Dunning and Avery Weems.

There was no indication that the Cardinals were in on Lynn at all as he enters the final year of his contract, but there is an argument to be made that they should’ve been. Lynn is not really a middle-of-the-rotation starter anymore. At this point, he has proven for two years that he is more than that.

The Cardinals are currently deciding what to do with Adam Wainwright, but the rotation has issues beyond that. Miles Mikolas has been hurt, Dakota Hudson will miss all of 2021, Jack Flaherty took a step back in 2020, and the team is trying to trade Carlos Martinez. Adding to the rotation could’ve made the team’s strength from the past few seasons a true strength again.

In Dunning and Weems, the Rangers get talented young arms, but what would a comparable package have looked like from the St. Louis Cardinals?

Dane Dunning <–> Zack Thompson

Dunning is rated a little bit higher than the Cardinals’ first pick from the 2019 draft, but both have similar projections. Dunning was a first-round pick back in 2016 but missed all of 2019 with Tommy John surgery. Rated as high as 80th in the MLB’s top 100 prospects, he is a sinker-throwing righty who is more crafty than powerful.

Dunning, 25, was the 4th-ranked prospect on the White Sox and projects as a middle or back end of the rotation starter and made his debut in 2020.

Zack Thompson throws from the left side, but has a very similar breakdown. Although he has never been ranked in the top 100 prospects, Thompson is 23 and ranks as the Cardinals’ 5th prospect. Thompson can run his fastball up there faster when he wants to, but is going to sit around where Dunning does as a starter. Like Dunning, Thompson projects as a mid-rotation arm.

Avery Weems <–> Tony Locey

Weems is a tougher name to find a replica for, but I would guess that Locey would fit well. Weems was ranked as the White Sox number 24 prospect after being drafted in the 6th round in 2019. He hasn’t been able to show much of what he can do in the professional game, but he projects to be a reliever who sits in the low-to-mid 90s.

For any less value the Cardinals offered with Dunning compared to Thompson, they can make up for it by swapping Weems for Locey. Locey was a 3rd round pick out of the 2019 draft and currently sits at 19 on the Cardinals’ top 30 prospects.

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At 6’3″ and 240 lbs, Locey is a tall right-hander who has a high-velocity fastball. He’s still a starter for now but could end up as a back-end reliever. Locey is one guy who’d sting to trade away so soon, but it feels like the right amount of sting to mean it is probably a worthwhile deal.

I may be way off on this comparable package, but it does say to me that high-end pitching is not getting any cheaper in 2020. Paying Zack Thompson and Tony Locey for a one-year rental of 34-year-old Lynn doesn’t match up with where the Cardinals are as a team right now, but it makes a lot of sense for a team that is on the upswing like the White Sox.

$10M for a top-10 Cy Young finish is a steal for any team, but the Cardinals will likely look to cheaper options to solidify the rotation, if at all.

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Lynn is back home with Tony La Russa again, even if just for one year. The Cardinals could’ve met the same asking price for Lynn, but paying $10M and a top-five prospect for a one-year rental on a starter just didn’t fit. However, it is good to see the stove heating up.