At one point, Patrick Corbin was all but a certainty to be a New York Yankee in 2018.
St. Louis’ acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt reminds the rest of the National League Central that the Cardinals will not be overshadowed by the I-94 war in 2019.
Baseball insiders say the Brewers are in on Sonny Gray, but why are they so bullish after such a down year?
Since David Stearns arrived in Milwaukee, he’s made a clear and conscious effort to prove that he loves stacking players up the middle and for good reason.
But that hasn’t stopped a black hole from forming behind the mound.
Robinson Cano is coming back to New York, this time to Queens, and he’s bringing an all-star closer with him. There are a few ways to interpret this trade, but the central, divisive question is: should the New York Mets be in win-now mode?
Lance Lynn signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Twins Saturday. The innings-eater goes to the Twins, where an effective mid-rotation starter can have more impact in a presumably Cleveland, Minnesota and the morass AL Central.
Meanwhile, many fans and followers of the Milwaukee Brewers were apoplectic, as Lynn and the Brewers were connected all offseason as a potential match, and starting pitching has been a perceived need for the fashionably-early Brew Crew. Since the long-shot Brewers were rebuffed by Shohei Ohtani, then were never really in on Yu Darvish, the rumors floating around Chris Archer never found grounding in reality, one-time Brewers prospect Jake Odorizzi ended up in Minnesota and Alex Cobb and Jake Arrieta are still on the open market, those who have bought into the line of thinking that the Brewers are somehow unserious contenders without spending serious money have grown increasingly discontented with the current state of affairs.
First, let’s look at Lance Lynn, ‘innings-eater’. Yes, in the five full seasons in which Lynn has pitched, he has thrown at least 175 innings. Yes, his career ERA is under 4. No, he is not a “very fine” pitcher as Deadspin’s Chris Thompson editorialized Saturday.
An idealized Lynn is exactly what you want from a mid-rotation starter: dependable, effective, keeps teams in games. The statistical trends are harrowing, though: his WHIP has never been under 1.22, his home run totals spiked from 13 in both 2014 and 2015 to 27 in 2017 alone, his K/BB ratio has tumbled since entering the league (2.81 in 2012 to 1.96 last season) and FIP has followed suit, underperforming ERA every season since 2014 and jumping to an alarming 4.82 last season.
And let us not ignore the fact that Lance Lynn was a part of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, those pitcher-whispering Merlins who resurrected Chris Carpenter from baseball death, made Adam Wainwright into an ace, developed an actually effective version of Lynn in Michael Wacha and even managed to make Shelby Miller look good.
St. Louis wanted nothing to do with retaining Lynn’s services: why should the Brewers bring in a guy with a checkered injury history and whose repertoire their entire division knows? (This same rationale extends to a certain free agent formerly of the north side of Chicago whose name rhymes with Cake Barrieta.)
Going into the hot stove, Brewers fans wanted a stopper, an ace. With Jimmy Nelson sidelined for a chunk of 2018 and Chase Anderson unlikely to be more dominant than he was in ’17, they clamored for Darvish (who brings his own set of question marks to the aforementioned north side) and all of everything mentioned at the top of this post; now they’re wanting to settle for Lance Lynn? What? Don’t the Brewers already have enough innings-eating, mid-rotation types like Zach Davies or Jhoulys Chacin? Aren’t they taking a calculated gamble with Junior Guerra in the back-end? This isn’t Thirsty Thursday, and you go back to your dorm with whoever’s left at last call.
Lance Lynn is a bad fit for Milwaukee for all the reasons mentioned above. In going to the AL Central, he is home in Target Field (pitcher’s park) and regularly sees Comerica Park (pitcher’s park),
Royals Kauffman Stadium (pitcher’s park), Jacobs Progressive Field (neutral, but with high fences) and New Comiskey US Cellular Guaranteed Rate Field (neutral). Lynn has a better chance to succeed in the AL Central than he ever would with the neutral-to-band-boxes that play host to the NL Central. (For the record, while PNC is a pitcher’s park, Lynn got hit hard there, too.)
And if he works out, good for him and good for Minnesota. That’s money well spent. If not, it’s only a one-year deal: Lynn gets a good payday and determines where to go from there.
By way of contrast, in football, a team addresses deficiencies straightaway and immediately in the offseason with free agency or through the draft. By not using salary cap space, teams don’t maximize investment in the on-field product and set themselves up to fail. In the free-spending baseball past, this was how the Yankees and Red Sox did their business, though without the burden of a hard cap.
The economic landscape changed, Moneyball first and then the current CBA allowed teams to place maximum value on controllable talent (and the players association leadership freely let them seize control this way, as Jeff Passan pointed out in his outstanding and provocative column from January.) It does not necessarily take the biggest payroll to play winning, competitive and/or championship-contending baseball, as the Brewers demonstrated last season and the Kansas City Royals proved only two autumns ago. The best baseball is played by the best teams, and the best teams are cultivated and then added on to, not wholly bought and paid for.
And, as we’ve mentioned on this site time and again in the hot stove, the Brewers don’t need to be spendy. If anything, they’ll add an arm when they know what they have in May or June, and they’ll do it from a position of strength. David Stearns knows exactly what he’s doing.
The Brewers aren’t any worse in any facet of the game right now than they were last season, when they were one game away from playing blessed, beautiful October Baseball. Lance Lynn wasn’t going to be a difference maker for your team, Brewers fans. He may or may not be a difference maker in Minnesota.
Regardless of outcome, Lynn isn’t going to be your problem, so why worry about it?
Brent Sirvio is co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.
After a whirlwind January where the Milwaukee Brewers added outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain and reliever Matt Albers, something still feels amiss between the talking heads and Brewers fans alike. If chatter in baseball circles is any indicator, it seems that nearly everyone expected the team to make a big push for a frontline starter, going so far as to say the Brewers aren’t a true contender until they address their rotation.
Todd Frazier gives the Mets consistency at third base, the likes of which they haven’t seen in years. On a budget, New York is better and deeper—and not as far from the playoff conversation as you might think.
What are the Milwaukee Brewers waiting for?
Now that the Brewers’ logjam is thorough and complete, it has been expected by many that David Stearns would be motivated to move Domingo Santana as the centerpiece of a deal for a starting pitcher. Santana, coming off a very respectable 2017 in which he was just one double shy of joining the 30-30 club, is the most attractive and movable asset he has. It makes sense, because you’d better believe Stearns is name-dropping Ryan Braun at the outset of every conversation to see if anyone will take the bait and no one is.
Santana is young, controllable and emerging: the perfect player for this bleeding-edge post-Moneyball era Baseball seems to be entering. For all the reasons other teams are interested, those are the same reasons Stearns wants him in his organization. And then there’s this this little tidbit I happened upon Tuesday:
Age 23 to 24 improvements:
Player A: BA +16 / OBP +12 / SLG +28 / OPS +26
Player B: BA +22 / OBP +26 / SLG +58 / OPS +83
Player B is Santana. Player A was Dave Winfield, from his third to fourth year in the league. Santana’s leap from part-time to full-time over the same age span isn’t just the natural development of a prospect, it is punctuated equilibrium and a sign that Santana may be more than a solid role player, but a superstar in the making.
In fairness, it’s too soon to say Santana is going to be a Hall-caliber player; Winfield didn’t start really showing his quality until 1978 at age 26. They’re similarly built but different athletes; Winfield was all-everything in Minnesota and starred in baseball and basketball for the Golden Gophers, the latter lending itself well to his instincts in the outfield and prowess at the wall. Santana also has great instincts in the field, but doesn’t have that acrobatic ability or nearly the arm Winfield wielded with impunity. Santana’s swing is smoother and less-violent than Winfield’s looping, almost awkward line-drive craft, yet both have a knack for taking pitches the opposite way.
Similar, yet different, yet similar.
Santana’s 2017 development has him, at this nascent stage of his career, surpassing a Hall of Famer. I suggest this is why Stearns is loathe to move him, and why he’s still a part of the Brewers organization after two major moves for outfielders that have the baseball world still abuzz about what’s brewing in Milwaukee. Where Santana’s value is perceived to be diminished, it would seem that his value has only increased. Stearns is either content to have that kind of upside in his clubhouse, or is waiting for another team to agree to a stronger return for Santana’s services and controllable years.
There is one albatross to Santana, and one clear numerical distinction between him and his Hall of Fame counterpart: 100, as in Santana struck out 100 more times than Winfield in their age 24 seasons. Winfield knew how to work a pitcher and only struck out more than 100 times thrice in his career, taking roughly three walks for every four strikeouts. By way of underscoring the point, Santana struck out 91 times in 2016, playing in 77 games.
If there is any hope for Santana becoming a legend, it will be in his ability to learn plate discipline and work his strikeout figures down. A .371 OBP with 178 Ks in 2017 is less Dave Winfield and more Adam Dunn, but everything else is there: good power and average at the plate, respectable in the outfield, by all accounts a good guy to have on the team. In my estimation, the trajectory for Santana (of course given the benefit of a full, healthy career) is Joe Carter. The floor is Corey Hart, beleaguered by injuries and forced into an unnatural spot in the batting order, hindering his growth. The ceiling, an evolutionary Winfield.
No matter what, Stearns has a very good problem on his hands, and that problem could be great. The Brewers don’t have to move Santana, just as they don’t need to add a starting pitcher. Entering Spring Training with an embarrassment of riches and depth is quite the contrast to where this team was in January 2016, to say nothing of 2006 or 1996. If the injury bug strikes the outfield, there is a starter ready to come in, be it Braun, Brett Phillips, Keon Broxton or Hernan Perez, even Eric Thames or Jonathan Villar in a pinch. Despite the loss of Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison in the Yelich trade, they rightly still have high hopes for Corey Ray and Trent Clark in the system.
Stearns and manager Craig Counsell are unafraid of the unorthodox, which is part of the reason why they’re right back in the middle of the scrum for the National League Central. Now that they’ve moved from rebuild to contention, it’s retaining players with significant value that will help keep them there. Anything less is a move for the sake of making a move, which is irresponsible to the medium-term viability of the club in the same measure that going in on Yelich and Lorenzo Cain was a bold play to win now.
When it comes to Domingo Santana‘s future with the Brewers, true love waits.
Brent Sirvio is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.