March 1: The Phillies have at least “entertained” the possibility of signing two of the remaining starters, Morosi tweets, though he notes that such a scenario is unlikely.
Feb. 28, 11:48pm: The Phillies have had recent contact with Lance Lynn and his agents at Excel Sports, tweets MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, though Morosi notes that the two sides aren’t close to an agreement at this time. Philadelphia, of course, has been said to be monitoring the free-agent market for starters for the bulk of the offseason, most prominently being linked to Jake Arrieta.
While the Phils haven’t been oft-connected to Lynn, there’s little surprise to the fact that they’re keeping tabs on his asking price and at least generally monitoring his market. Beyond top starter Aaron Nola, the Phillies have little in the way of rotation certainty, after all. Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez seem likely to break camp in the rotation, but Eickhoff struggled through a lackluster 2017 season while Velasquez was limited by injuries and ineffective when healthy. Both showed considerably more promise in 2016, though, and the general lack of experience throughout the remainder of the roster should give them spots.
Other options for the Phillies include Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, Ben Lively and Mark Leiter, though none from that bunch turned in an especially encouraging 2017 season — at least at the big league level. Drew Hutchison is easily the team’s most experienced non-roster invitee in camp, and he could conceivably force his way into the mix as well.
Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of room to add an established veteran to the Phils’ starting corps. GM Matt Klentak and president Andy MacPhail have hardly shied away from free-agent spending this offseason, bringing in Carlos Santana (three years, $60MM), Tommy Hunter (two years, $18MM) and Pat Neshek (two years, $16.25MM) in addition to Hutchison’s non-guaranteed deal. Lynn would represent a fourth notable multi-year signing, though at this stage in the offseason and with a seemingly tepid market for his services, it’s possible that he could be had at a lower rate than many pundits expected when he rejected a $17.4MM qualifying offer from the Cardinals.
That he rejected said QO, of course, means that the Phillies will lose more than just money by signing him. Bringing Lynn into the organization would require the team to forfeit its second-highest remaining draft pick as well as $500K worth of international bonus allotments. The Phillies already sacrificed their second-round pick by signing Santana, who also rejected a QO, so signing Lynn (or Arrieta or Alex Cobb) would require them to surrender their third-round selection while seeing their league-allotted international bonus pool reduced by another $500K.
The 30-year-old Lynn (31 in May) returned from Tommy John surgery in 2017 to throw 186 1/3 innings of 3.43 ERA ball in 33 starts for the Cardinals. The surface-level numbers are impressive, but Lynn’s 7.4 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9 and 27.2 percent chase rate were all career-worsts. His .244 BABIP was the lowest mark among all qualified big league starters as well, while his 79 percent strand rate was tied for the ninth-highest. His four-seam fastball also sat at just 91.8 mph — down roughly a mile an hour from his peak years. For a pitcher who threw his heater a stunning 81.1 percent of the time in 2017 — 12.4 percent higher than the next pitcher on the list — that’s a troubling trend.