The way the Yankees construct their starting rotation has changed significantly since winning their last World Series in 2009. It’s a little jarring to see what the Yankees’ rotations looked like in years following their 1996 World Series win.
For one, there used to be five strong horses pulling the cart, and three or four of them were seasoned veterans. In juxtaposition to the starting rotations from 1996-2003, the Yankees’ starting pitching in 2020 looks like picked-over supermarket shelves in the hours before a natural disaster.
There used to be an amazing amount of year-to-year consistency, as well, with the same guys filling the same spots in the rotation for multiple seasons. For one, Andy Pettitte held things down for 15 years.
It’s hard to remember what having that kind of stability and familiarity, year after year, was like. The Yankees’ current conundrum is they might not be willing to pay each and every player who could help them win in 2021. But, they also can’t afford to have this free agency period pass by with their key needs still unaddressed.
Relative to the Yankees’ 2020 starting pitching, the championship and pennant-winning Yankee teams feature rotations that stand out for their immense depth and experience. The Yankees’ shallow rotation has been their achilles heel for a couple years in a row. Whether or not they re-sign DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees must devote spending power and resources toward fortifying the team’s rotation. If the Yankees can afford to make only one or two big moves in the offseason, one of them should be trading for Lance Lynn.
Lynn’s strengths and the starting rotation’s needs align. The Yankees need a workhorse who can eat innings and shoulder some of the relievers’ workload. Lynn fits the bill. Even at the age of 33, he pitched 84 innings in 2020, more than any other pitcher in the majors. To give an idea of how impressive that is, consider that Masahiro Tanaka pitched 48 innings this past season. J.A. Happ pitched 49.1 innings. Lynn pitched more innings than Zach Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green and Jonathan Loáisiga did combined.
Lynn has been one of the best pitchers in the majors for the last two seasons. His starts for the Rangers in 2020 are also a testament to his ability to make adjustments when he’s not getting the results he desires. In 2019, Lynn didn’t get off on the right foot. After his first five starts, he posted a 2-2 record with a 6.51 ERA; by the end of the season he’d finished fifth in the Cy Young Award voting. Altering his pitch mix—using his sinker less often— helped Lynn overcome those lousy starts at the beginning.
Long story short, Lynn has demonstrated his ability to adapt and consistently perform. The Yankees could really use a stopper like that.
Plus, Lynn is also a clubhouse leader who can foster cohesion among the Yankees’ pitching staff. His experience will be a valuable resource for the Yankees’ less experienced pitchers, as guys like Deivi Garcia and Jordan Montgomery can learn a lot from Lynn and the example he sets. Considering how little overlap from 2019 there was in the Yankees’ starting rotation, the team stands to benefit by adding an anchor to the group.
It’s likely that the Rangers will be eager to offload the eight million dollars Lynn is guaranteed in 2021 The question is, who and what will the Yankees give up to bring Lynn back to New York? The Yankees are one among a large number of teams who need starting pitching in 2021. To get Lynn, the team will probably need to part with players they’d rather not give up. So be it. The Yankees need starting pitching. They’ve needed it for a while now.