Lance Lynn extension shows White Sox can sell themselves

When the White Sox designated Adam Eaton for assignment earlier this month, I mentioned that reflexive pessimism more or less charted the course for how that particular signing was going to work out at the moment the news broke in December.

The day before Eaton signed, the White Sox had traded for Lance Lynn. I had also run that move through the how’s-this-gonna-fail test, going so far as to diagram it.

But while the trade resembled the shape of the ill-fated Jeff Samardzija deal, the comparison struck me as overly cynical. Lynn joined the White Sox off a couple of superior performances, and with timing that gave him a much better chance of making a difference, so while the White Sox traded multiple promising prospects for one year of a veteran workhorse, the comparisons pretty much ended there. Any concerns had more to do with relying on a pitcher in his 30s to remain at or near the top of his game for one specific year. That’s just standard margin-for-error stuff.

Well, Lynn responded by leading the American League in ERA in the first half, and now he opens the second half with a two-year, $38 million contract extension with a team option for 2024. In between, every step along the way has avoided just about every mistake made during the Samardzija sequence.

The White Sox didn’t stress Lynn’s Indiana roots when they acquired him. They didn’t call him a “Captain of Attitude” and try to establish him as a leader upon arrival. If they had an overwhelming desire to extend him before he even threw a single pitch for them, they didn’t show it. The White Sox actually waited for cues this time before discussing the future, and like any healthy relationship, both sides saw it the same way when it was time to talk.

“Rick was like, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?'”, Lynn told A.J. Pierzynski and Adam Amin during the third inning of Fox’s broadcast of the White Sox-Astros game. “I’m a veteran guy, so I wasn’t worried about talking in the middle of the season.”

“These things go fast when you’re in the same ballpark when the first numbers come out, and we were. And then you look at the break we had with the All-Star break, so we were able to talk a little bit, and it was kind of an easy back-and-forth for about 24 hours.

“Next thing we know, we were right where we needed to be, and now we can just worry about the second half and go do it. If it didn’t come together, then it was something we could’ve kicked down the line at the end of the season or into the offseason, but we were so close right away that it was such an easy fit. I enjoy it here, I enjoy this team and what we have going forward here, so I’m really excited about being here.”

He put it even more succinctly in a conference call with reporters before the game: “There’s no point in going into free agency if you know where you want to be.”

* * * * * * * * *

This has the makings of an inflection point in the White Sox’s rebuild ascent. Prior to this, Rick Hahn did what he could to establish a core by signing prospects to early/pre-career extensions, but his attempts to sell desirable veterans on the merits of the White Sox were mixed. He succeeded in landing guys like Yasmani Grandal and Liam Hendriks, but unsuccessful pursuits of nine-figure players gave their acquisitions an element of settling. The White Sox could land top-of-market players, but they had to be specific markets with lower ceilings like “closer” or “veteran catcher.” When it came to the top of the overall market, they lacked the acumen and/or desire to actually compete.

The White Sox’s commitment to Lynn doesn’t break new ground financially. At a maximum of three years and $55 million, that’s what they gave Dallas Keuchel two years ago. In terms of talent, though, what Lynn is doing — on pace for a 5 WAR season in a contract year — usually falls out of their price range. At the start of the second half, the only impending free-agent starters on track to command as much as Lynn are Kevin Gausman, Marcus Stroman and Max Scherzer.

If Lynn can get to the end of the season without issue, it’ll still be worth monitoring this market to understand what kind of extra space this signing creates in their budget, which will firm up what exactly the White Sox gained by trading Dane Dunning and Avery Weems for Lynn at that specific point in time. Standard pitcher-health caveats aside, the White Sox have already addressed their biggest need from their offseason agenda with a premium player. Two of their starting pitchers were going to hit free agency this year. Now there’s only one, and Michael Kopech is waiting in the wings for that remaining if Carlos Rodón heads elsewhere. I’m guessing the White Sox will extend Rodón a qualifying offer and see where the market takes him.

That leaves the Springfield Tire Fire in right field as the only area of need, but between now and the end of the season, we may have to recalibrate how we assess the White Sox’s abilities to solve such problems. Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets reflect a newfound appetite for experimenting with defensive positioning. With Sheets and Jake Burger, the White Sox can actually see immediate results from young hitters instead of an immediate and years-long adjustment process. If Lynn’s experience is any indication, the White Sox might not have to try so hard to make themselves appealing to outsiders. And should Lynn help spearhead a run deep into October, there will be even fewer things about the White Sox that’ll need to be said.

(Photo by Mike Dinovo.USA TODAY Sports)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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I’m a veteran guy, so I was worried about talking in the middle of the season

Watching the interview live, I thought he said he wasn’t worried about talking in the middle of the season?


I have the same impression

Root Cause

It’s great to open the Sox Machine on Sunday morning and read some good news about the present and future.

I too, thought about Wheeler’s comments while Lynn was talking last night. What a difference. Winning is contagious and I can’t help but wonder how Lynn’s and Abreu’s attitudes might affect Rodon.

Last edited 1 year ago by Root Cause

Doesn’t get much better than *this* Sunday morning’s news….


How will QOs work with the CBA set to expire in December? Presumably a team could make the QO since the start of free agency overlaps with the old CBA. But would a new CBA overwrite the rules for compensation for this off-season? Or would it not kick in until next year? I haven’t followed these things as closely in the past.

Last edited 1 year ago by MrStealYoBase
joe blow

There are still QO this winter under the old CBA. I would QO Rodon and let Boras do a masterful job of selling him on a long term deal elsewhere


Lynn certainly could have gotten more money if he chose free agency. Speaks highly to him as a person and teammate that there are things more important to him than how much money he makes.


Check out this article for an idea of how competitive he is:


Rodon is the guy they have to ante up for.


I kind of assume that any hope of that died when the Sox non-tendered him to save $1 million last year.


While they are thinking extension, just go ahead and trade for Starling Marte and extend him. He reportedly asked for 3-4 years for close to $50m. That’s a reasonable ask and solves RF for years.


Yes to this a million times.


I liked the deal at the time as it signifies the opening of the championship “window”. While the Eaton signing failed, the fact that they traded real prospect capital for a legit starter and then dropped Eaton in mid season shows they’re not being patient and are in win now mode.
I agree with the above comments and the mentioning of RF in the article. So much wasted money and prospects have been invested with little in return. With the extension of Lynn, RF becomes the only hole on the team long term as Jim so aptly described. It would make complete sense for Hahn to play at the top of the market for tradeable right fielders with reasonable salaries that align to the window. Guys like Burger and Sheets, despite looking like legit major league players, are expendable and could fetch a solid return to close this gap.

East Side Pride

With all the talk of Larussa this year, the fact that Cooper & and his firmly rooted sytem are gone, & it proved to be only for the better immediately isn’t talked about much. Katz is doing a wonderful job in his 1st year, seems like these guys want to win for him. Just a happy thought, upon hearning of Lynn’s extension ¡ As far as the fire, Jimenez will be perma DH this year, so Vaughn will start left & and has grown into a solid defender

Last edited 1 year ago by East Side Pride