Despite an eight game losing streak, the Colorado Rockies are still firmly in control of a National League Wild Card spot. However, this losing streak has exposed some holes that the Rockies should probably try to fill at the MLB trade deadline. One of those holes is in the rotation, and the St. Louis Cardinals may have just what the Rockies need in Lance Lynn.
The Rockies have a full boat of capable starters, but they’ve been relying on four rookies to carry the load. And the Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson DL stints show that they, like all teams, aren’t immune to the injury bug. Adding a veteran who has pitched down the stretch for a contending team may be a good idea.
Lance Lynn is a big (6’5, 280 pound) right-handed starting pitcher who will be a free agent after the season. His pending free agency combined the Cardinals’ struggles to get above .500 this season may make him available on the trade market as we approach the deadline. Jon Morosi speculated that Lynn makes sense for the Rockies. Let’s try and make sense of what a Lynn to the Rockies trade could look like.
What is Lance Lynn worth?
For his career, Lynn has a 3.42 ERA, a 3.57 FIP, and a 3.78 xFIP—all respectable numbers. The peripherals are also good: 8.7 K/9, 3.34 BB/9, 9.2 percent HR/FB rate. His ground ball and fly ball ratios are right at league average at 44.3 percent and 34.6 percent, respectively. He looks to be a solid addition to the middle of a rotation.
Lynn is currently having the worst season of his young career, but it’s a bit confusing as to why. On one hand, Lynn’s 20 percent HR/FB looks like he’s getting hit harder), but on the other hand his .218 BABIP suggests he’s getting hit softer. And yet, his actual batted ball profile doesn’t look all that different, and he’s still sporting a 3.90 ERA.
Notably, Lynn also missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery after the 2015 season. While he has appeared fully healthy this season, there are always lingering effects. This may explain some of the anomalies for Lynn this season.
Due to his rental status and also being a tier below some of the top pitchers that may be available on the market, Lynn could be a more affordable option prospect-wise for the Rockies.
What would Lance Lynn cost?
Comparable trades help us get a sense of what Lynn would cost. In 2015, the Giants acquired Mike Leake from the Reds, and the Astros trade for Scott Kazmir with the Oakland A’s. Both were in the last year of their contracts and were valued similarly to Lynn on the market.
Leake netted the Reds the Giants’ top pitching prospect at the time, Keury Mella, and also a Triple-A 26-year-old corner infielder no one was excited about at the time, Adam Duvall. One thing to keep in mind is that being named the top prospect in the Giants organization is damning with faint praise. Duvall was ranked 25th in the Giants’ farm system at the time.
To acquire Kazmir, the Astros sent right-handed pitcher Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham, who were ranked 19th and 22nd, respectively, in the Astros farm system. While this might seem like quite the drop-off in price compared to the Leake trade, the Astros had a much deeper farm system than the Giants.
To normalize the costs, I placed where each of the four prospects would be placed in the current Rockies farm system. While the Rockies have had their fair share of graduations and is not as good as the 2015 Astros, it is still miles ahead of where the Giants’ farm was in 2015. For Leake, this would be similar to the Rockies roughly trading their number six prospect and a prospect not ranked on any top 30 list. For Kazmir, it would be like trading their 12th and 14th ranked prospects.
Using these as a guideline, it gives us a good idea of what the Rockies would have to consider trading: either a couple of mid-tier prospect or one higher tier as well as a lottery ticket, in order to acquire Lance Lynn.
What prospects would the Rockies have to trade?
Based off that guideline, here’s a list that would fit a similar trade profile. The final caveat is that we don’t know what kind of return the Cardinals would want. Do they want pitching or hitting prospects? Do they want players who could help them out next year, or do they want prospects further away but have higher upside? The following list, compiled using prospect rankings off MLB Pipeline, covers a range of possibilities.
Ryan Castellani (No. 4), RHP, Double-A
If the Cardinals wanted to go for the one big prospect and a throw-in like the Reds, this is probably the highest ranked prospect that they could get. This might even be a bit high, but it gives us a good idea of the highest possible prospect cost. Fans from other organizations might balk because of his numbers this year, but Castellani is one of the youngest player in Double-A and was the Cal League pitcher of the year last year.
Dom Nuñez (No. 8), C, Double-A
Nuñez has always looked better on scouting reports than in the stat lines. His bat has been hit or miss at various times, but the defensive profile keeps him highly ranked among catching prospects.
Yency Almonte (No. 12), RHP, Double-A
For a prospect with shinier numbers, look to Almonte. It would be his third trade in his minor-league career already.
Sam Howard, (No. 14), LHP, Triple-A
Prior to Howard, the Cardinals would probably only get one guy off this list and a lower tier prospect that might not even be ranked. Starting with Howard though, the Cardinals would probably receive two guys from this range.
Personally, I’ve never been high on Howard, but he keeps proving me wrong. And after passing the Double-A with flying colors, he is now in Triple-A, where he’s having to make a few adjustments.
Garrett Hampson (No. 15), SS, High-A
Hampson is the furthest away of this bunch, but if the Cardinals want a higher upside player, this might be an intriguing option for them. While Hampson lacks almost any type of home-run power, that’s about all he is lacking. He can play solid defense up the middle and provides a mature approach at the plate and plenty of speed.
Jordan Patterson (No. 16), OF/1B, Triple-A
If the Cardinals want someone who can help them immediately, Patterson is the best choice. His biggest flaw is that he’s a left-handed outfielder in a system that produces them like an assembly line. He’s been bypassed by higher ranked prospects, but there is still a lot to like about him. He had a rough start to the season after not making the big-league team but has quietly had a very good June. Patterson could help the Cardinals immediately in the outfield and at first base.
Brian Mundell (No. 19), 1B, Double-A
Another first base option for the Cardinals, Mundell was promoted to Double-A after only half of a season in High-A, where he was an All-Star.
Pat Valaika, IF, MLB
Valaika is no longer considered a prospect by the definition most use; however, as a rookie, he might be an intriguing piece for the Cardinals if they want some immediate help in the middle infield. Valaika has been relegated to a back-up utility role for the Rockies, more a testament to the Rockies depth than any condemnation of Valaika’s ability. I could see a team in need of an infielder being willing to give him a shot as starter.
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Without knowing exactly what kind of prospects the Cardinals are looking for, it’s tough to build a good package. However, if they want some young MLB-ready players to bolster their team next year, a package of Valaika and Patterson might intrigue them. Both players are blocked in the Rockies’ system, but they have shown an ability to hit at the MLB level in small samples. Other possible packages could be Howard and Patterson, or even Nuñez and Hampson if they want more upside that’s a little further away.