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Making sense of the Yankees’ trade for Lance Lynn

Lynn isn’t having a good year, but he been decent of late and can provide flexibility on the staff.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Monday was yet another crazy day across the baseball world, specifically in the trade department. With the non-waiver deadline today at 4 pm Eastern, teams are putting the finishing touches on their rosters as they prepare for the pennant race in August and September.

Monday’s deals mainly focused on a variety of bullpen arms, but one trade that could use some breaking down is the Yankees’ acquisition of right-handed pitcher Lance Lynn.

Lynn is 31-years-old and a free agent at the season’s end. He’s made 20 starts for the Minnesota Twins this year, who signed him to a one-year, $12 million deal this past offseason. He’s posted underwhelming results thus year, putting up a 5.10 ERA with 100 strikeouts to 62 walks over 102 13 innings pitched. FIP likes him a bit better, but DRA doesn’t, with a 7.08 mark.

Though these poor numbers would suggest otherwise, Lynn has been fairly solid since May began. In this stretch, spanning 15 starts, he has a 4.12 ERA, but his poor strikeout and walk numbers still are a cause for concern.

And the Yankees didn’t give up chump change to get him either, even as a rental. Tyler Austin and Luis Rijo is a solid return for Minnesota. Austin was once a top 100 prospect whose stock has cratered out since posting a 96 OPS+ in his first 268 big league plate appearances. Rijo is 19 and already in High-A, posting immaculate control over his professional career thus far; he has only allowed 14 walks in 125 13 innings to date.

It’s a curious trade on the surface. Lynn isn’t the starter that the Yankees so desperately needed, as that title belongs to J.A. Happ, who they acquired from the Blue Jays late last week. Lynn is a starting pitcher, but in a rotation of Happ, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and CC Sabathia, there may not be a ton of room. (Even considering Gray’s awful year to this point, he’s still probably a better option.)

That would leave Lynn in the bullpen on a New York team with the best relief corps in the Major Leagues. In theory, he replaces Adam Warren, who the Yankees traded to the Mariners for international bonus space earlier today. But Warren is significantly better than Lynn, posting a 2.70 ERA with 37 strikeouts to just 12 walks over his 30 innings.

Still, I’m missing the why. Why did the Yankees made this move? It appears as if there are two main motives.

First, the Yankees need a long reliever. A.J. Cole has been serving in that role since his trade from the Nationals, but he hasn’t had any outings of more than seven outs with the Yankees. At a minimum, Lynn can provide extra length to the Yankees when necessary, especially with the starting pitching being a weak point on their roster. Lynn would be able to stop the bleeding if any starter is unable to go deep.

Second, this increases pressure on Sonny Gray and gives the team more options. I don’t think Brian Cashman is done before tomorrow’s deadline. It seems unlikely, at least to me, that he is going to trade Gray away, but it’s true that crazier things have happened. The trade for Lynn, though, makes it easier to flip-flop the two in the rotation and the bullpen if Gray continues to struggle.

I want to underscore the point I just made. Cashman isn’t done dealing, and his plan seems unclear at the moment. But he’s one of the most talented general managers in baseball, so I’m going to defer to his instincts on this one, even when it doesn’t make the most sense.


Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.