There’s been a lot of bluster from the Phillies front office and ownership recently about wanting to add an arm that solidifies a currently bottom-heavy rotation, but there hasn’t been any action to prove it.
At least not yet.
Much of the media’s focus has been on the team’s tepid pursuit of free agent Jake Arrieta (more on that in a minute), but now comes news from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi that the team is also looking at former Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn, who surprisingly also remains on the market as the calendar turns to March:
Sources: #Phillies have had contact with free agent Lance Lynn’s camp in recent weeks, although the sides are not close to a deal. The Phillies also have ongoing dialogue with Jake Arrieta, as @JonHeyman has reported. @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) March 1, 2018
While Arrieta is undoubtedly the more heralded of the two, a quick look at their stat lines shows a comparable performance one year ago:
Arrieta: 30 starts, 14-10 record, 168.1 IP, 1.2 HR/9, 8.7 SO/9, 163 K, 3.53 ERA, 4.16 FIP, 1.218 WHIP
Lynn: 33 starts, 11-8 record, 186.1 IP, 1,3 HR/9, 7.4 SO/9, 153 K, 3.43 ERA, 4.82 FIP, 1.229 WHIP
Obviously, the evaluation process of these players goes far beyond a brief glance at their stat lines, and each pitcher would come packaged at a substantial cost and with justifiable concerns. Arrieta, who will turn 32 later this week, experienced a recent drop in velocity a year ago and his K/9 rate is down almost a full strike out from his peak seasons, though I think that’s a bit overblown. He still induced weak contact on ground balls at a rate (.171 BABIP) far below league average in 2017. The more troubling issue was a measurable decline in the effectiveness of his slider. That could be an anomaly – an innocuous and temporary inability to get a feel for a formerly effective pitch – or a warning sign that indicates more trouble ahead. Still, while carrying a good deal of risk, he possesses legitimate top-of-the-rotation upside that goes well beyond intangibles such as big game experience or the mentoring qualities he would bring to a young staff.
Meanwhile, Lynn missed the entire 2016 season after needing Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He quieted concerns over any lingering injury issues last season after making 33 starts. Though his stat line isn’t all that different from Arrieta’s, he doesn’t miss bats at the same rate as he did a few years ago (down from 9.2 K/9 to 7.4 last season) and ultimately possesses a lower ceiling which probably slots him more as a mid-rotation arm on this team. It’s worth noting Lynn, while certainly seeking to cash in on what will be his last chance to strike a rich contract, won’t command the same type of financial commitment as Arrieta.
Given the Phillies’ financial flexibility and need for upside in the rotation, they’re better served taking on the higher risk/reward option.
Or, you know, they could just sign both:
Sources: #Phillies have entertained possibility of signing *two* of the remaining free agent starters. While not likely to occur, the situation is financially plausible. At present, Philly has lowest payroll commitment of any @MLB team for 2018. @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) March 1, 2018
That’s fun. Imagining the possibility of a bolstered rotation with a young and exciting lineup as these rumors swirl is, ahem, arousing, but the down side is that if the team ultimately stays out of the fray, they’re going to take some heat for the first time in awhile, and deservedly so. There’s something to be said for staying financially disciplined and sticking to the core principles of their rebuild, but at the some point soon the reality must set in that this team has both an urgent need and the money to address it. The Phillies need to stop acting like a small market team that can’t afford to play with the big boys. Free agent misses are bad, but they can also afford to whiff because they are one of the big boys. It’s time to flex a little bit and show it.