White Sox Ink Lance Lynn to Two-Year Extension by Dan Szymborski July 19, 2021 A surprisingly deep group of free-agent pitchers this winter became a little less so over the weekend, as Lance Lynn agreed to a two-year extension with the White Sox. The deal guarantees at least $38 million for the veteran hurler through the 2023 season and will pay him $18.5 million in each of ’22 and ’23, with the Sox holding an option for ’24 worth $18 million and a $1 million buyout. If you happened to surf over to our in-house depth charts, you would find the White Sox only looking up at the Mets when it comes to pitching, and given that six of the 10 Mets listed are currently out with injuries, I’d prefer to have Chicago’s starting five if I’m the benevolent dictator of a contending team. The rotation is currently projected to finish with 19.3 WAR, topping the majors and enough to give the Sox one of the top 20 rotations since we survived the Y2K bug. That’s an impressive accomplishment considering that they’re currently projected to finish right around 900 innings, about a hundred short of the rest of that top 20. And as there are good reasons to think the contending years are just starting, Chicago has an obvious interest in keeping such a high-performing group together for years to come; Carlos Rodón is now the team’s only significant free agent this offseason. It’s been an impressive reversal of fortune for Lynn, who didn’t attract a ton of interest in his first two go-arounds in free agency. After posting a 4.82 FIP in 2017 upon returning from Tommy John surgery, he only fetched a one-year contract with the Twins, but despite seeing his walks and ERA balloon to career-worsts in ’18, he closed a three-year pact with the Rangers, albeit with a pay cut. Ranking fifth in the AL in pitching WAR this season and only 1 2/3 innings shy of qualifying for the AL ERA title, he looks like a good bet to pick up Cy Young votes for his third consecutive season. Could Lynn have made more in free agency? It’s a more complicated question than you think. It’s also one that he had little interest in testing. “When you start getting older in this game, you realize that where you want to play and where you want to be and what kind of organization you want to be a part of weighs a lot,” he said Saturday. “Over the first half of the season, just being able to see how everybody goes about their business here, the group that’s here and the group that’s going to be here for the next couple of years, it seemed like a pretty easy fit. It’s not surprising to see Lynn go for stability over uncertainty. By all accounts, Chicago has been a terrific fit for him, and he’s become a favorite of the fanbase. The White Sox would have been quite content to start Dane Dunning; last December’s swap was about them wanting Lynn rather than not wanting Dunning. ZiPS Projection – Lance Lynn Year W L S ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ WAR 2022 14 9 0 3.81 31 30 172.7 156 73 26 60 192 117 3.4 2023 12 8 0 3.94 27 27 153.0 142 67 24 54 163 113 2.8 2024 11 9 0 4.13 27 26 150.3 144 69 24 55 155 108 2.4 2025 10 8 0 4.12 25 24 139.7 134 64 23 51 144 108 2.3 2026 9 7 0 4.29 22 21 121.7 120 58 21 46 124 104 1.8 2027 7 7 0 4.54 19 19 105.0 107 53 19 41 105 98 1.3 2028 6 6 0 4.81 16 15 83.7 88 45 17 34 82 93 0.8 The ZiPS projections liked Lynn to have a gentle decline through his 30s, but not one that was likely to merit a gigantic payday. The aging curve for pitchers tends to be more attrition-based than for hitters, but a long-term deal for Lynn would start to get him into his late 30s, where you do start seeing a significant dropoff in skills along with the playing time. ZiPS would have given him a longer-term deal — four years, $84 million — but the $45.5 million projection for the next two years is not a galaxy apart from his $38 million guarantee. Recent free-agent classes have been relatively shallow when it comes to pitching talent, but this autumn’s harvest looks far more bountiful. ZiPS projects eight pending free-agent pitchers — Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Kevin Gausman, Zack Greinke, Eduardo Rodriguez, Robbie Ray, and Marcus Stroman — to be worth at least three wins in the first years of their new deals, more than the seven it did for the previous two offseasons combined. There are some big names in that group, including several veterans also looking for two-or-three year deals. That also doesn’t include Noah Syndergaard, a pitcher who retains dizzying upside, and some interesting injury gambles in Corey Kluber and James Paxton. Given some of the name brand stars available, there was at least some risk Lynn ended up once again being a team’s consolation signing. The league’s finances have to be considered as well. While the bottom line is certainly better than the Dickensian pauper status the owners usually suggest, it’s not at all clear that there are going to be a lot of teams hungry to spend this go-around. The vast majority of teams now appear to consider baseball’s de facto soft salary cap as if it were a harder one. On top of that, the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLBPA expires on December 1, and unless the negotiations go shockingly smoothly, those talks will cast a shadow over baseball that’s likely to discourage teams from spending. Whether or not he left money on the table, Lynn got a reasonable offer to stay on the team he wants to play for. The White Sox can now turn to the short-term need of picking up another bat and/or a second baseman for the season’s concluding chapters.