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Lance Lynn commerce grades: White Sox now have a Huge Three; Rangers get to dream on arms

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The Rangers and White Sox reminded everyone that MLB’s Winter Meetings are underway by agreeing to a late-night trade Monday. Texas reportedly will ship right-hander Lance Lynn to the White Sox in exchange for pitchers Dane Dunning and Avery Weems.

The deal is pending physicals, according to The Athletic and other outlets. Neither team had announced the move as of early Tuesday.

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Lynn, 33, will reunite with new White Sox manager Tony La Russa, although they last worked together almost a decade ago. Lynn came up with the Cardinals in 2011, La Russa’s final season as St. Louis’ manager. He has since developed into an effective innings-eater, and he excelled in the role the past two seasons for Texas.

Sporting News grades the trade for both clubs.

White Sox: B+

Chicago is poised to receive great value with this rental. Lynn will make $8 million in the final season of a three-year, $30 million contract ($10 million average annual value for luxury tax purposes), according to Baseball Prospectus. He outperformed his deal the first two years, posting a 3.57 ERA (140 ERA+), a 3.43 FIP and 10.3 K/9 in 292 1/3 innings. He led the majors in 2020 with 84 innings in 13 starts (6.46 innings per start).

Lynn gives the win-now Sox a Big Three in their rotation with Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. That group will look threatening in an October series if they’re all healthy for the postseason. And Lynn has been healthy since returning from his 2015 Tommy John surgery. He made 33, 29 and 33 starts the previous three full seasons and took a regular turn in the 60-game 2020 campaign.

Chicago will need Lynn to be durable, barring further offseason moves, because the current back end of the rotation has questions. Dylan Cease was inconsistent and Reynaldo Lopez was bad last year. Michael Kopech has missed two full seasons after his own TJ surgery. Dunning would have been a piece to fill in the puzzle. 

Rangers: B

Welcome back to Arlington, Chris Young. It’s not known how involved Texas’ new general manager was in this deal, but he was just given two pitchers he can dream upon.

Dunning, who will turn 26 on Dec. 20, made his MLB debut last August and was uneven over seven starts. The right-hander managed a 3.97 ERA (3.99 FIP) but faltered in his final two outings (eight earned over seven frames). He “opened” the deciding Game 3 of Chicago’s Wild Card Series against the A’s, lasting just two-thirds of an inning because of an ultra-quick hook by former manager Rick Renteria. The White Sox used nine pitchers in that contest before losing 6-4.

With the Rangers’ rebuild/payroll purge picking up steam, it figures that Dunning will begin spring training in the rotation mix. Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles are Texas’ top two starters with Lynn out of the picture, and then it’s Kolby Allard, Wes Benjamin and Kyle Cody on MLB.com’s depth chart.

Weems, 23, is not ready to compete for a major league job. He hasn’t pitched above rookie ball, although he dominated at that level in 2019 after being drafted in the sixth round by Chicago out of the University of Arizona. The left-hander averaged 11.0 K/9 in 60 1/3 innings and posted a 2.09 ERA. Weems was not invited to the White Sox’s summer camp and was not one of their top 30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline. (Dunning was ranked fifth.)

Texas could have/should have dealt Lynn at the deadline last summer when teams would have gotten an extra month of starts from him. It took until December to cash in that big chip for two long-term pieces. The Rangers appear to have gotten a decent return, but how much better could it have been in August?

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Melinda Martin