The Orioles are interested in free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports (Twitter link). Morosi adds that the Orioles slightly prefer fellow righty Alex Cobb, however, thanks to his vast experience in the American League East. Morosi first linked Cobb to the Orioles on Friday.
Either Lynn or Cobb is the third-best established starter on the market behind Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, and signing one of the two second-tier arms would ostensibly be a boon to a Baltimore rotation in dire need of help. Orioles starters placed 27th in the majors in fWAR (5.5) and dead last in ERA (5.70) during the regular season, and with 2017 rotation members Chris Tillman, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez now on the open market, the team is on the hunt for multiple starters.
Lynn debuted as a regular in the Cardinals’ rotation in 2012 and has quietly been among the majors’ most consistent workhorses since then. With the exception of 2016, which he missed after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Lynn hasn’t finished with fewer than 29 starts or 175 1/3 innings in any full season. The fastball specialist has also thrived at keeping opposing offenses at bay, evidenced by a 3.37 ERA that ranks tied for 22nd among big league starters since 2012.
The 30-year-old Lynn spun 186 1/3 innings of 3.43 ERA ball in 2017, though his terrific run prevention came in spite of underwhelming rates in the strikeout (7.39 K/9; down from 8.46 lifetime) and walk (3.77; up from 3.4) departments. A fair amount of Lynn’s success last season was on account of a .244 batting average on balls in play, way down from his .297 career mark, but it wasn’t solely a product of good fortune. Lynn tied with a handful of starters – including National League Cy Young winner Max Scherzer – for 25th out of 94 qualifiers in average exit velocity allowed (85.7 mph). Thanks in part to that, his expected weighted on-base average allowed (.310) was right in line with the .309 wOBA he surrendered.
Considering both Lynn’s track record and the dearth of big-time starters available in free agency, he’s in line to land one of the offseason’s richest contracts. With Lynn having rejected the Cardinals’ $17.4MM qualifying offer, signing him would cost Baltimore its third-highest pick in next summer’s draft, which isn’t much of a deterrent in and of itself. But, as much as Lynn could help the O’s rotation in 2018, it’s debatable whether they’d be wise to hand a lucrative long-term deal to him, Cobb or anyone else this winter with core players Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Adam Jones and Brad Brach scheduled to hit free agency next year.