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Lance Lynn to White Sox - Fantasy Impact

Entering the offseason looking to shore up their pitching staff, the White Sox made the first big move in the 2020 starting pitcher market with the acquisition of right-hander Lance Lynn from the Texas Rangers. In return, Chicago sent top-100 prospect Dane Dunning and 2019 sixth-rounder Avery Weems down south to Arlington.

In a move that signals an "all-in" mentality towards a deep postseason run in 2021, the White Sox surrendered a couple of young arms to the Rangers in exchange for one year of the veteran Lynn, who finished sixth in the AL Cy Young voting in 2020 and will help solidify the top of Chicago's rotation. Meanwhile, after four consecutive losing seasons, the Rangers continued their efforts to build a young core with the addition of Dunning — who can make an immediate impact in 2021 — and Weems — a promising young arm who shined in his pro ball debut in 2019.

Even without the discussion surrounding what to believe and what to ignore from the shortened 2020 season, there are some interesting fantasy implications as a result of this deal in both dynasty and redraft leagues. We'll take a look at both sides of this deal, but let's start off things by looking at the major piece in this deal.

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Win Now: Lynn to the South Side

Lynn has seen somewhat of a career resurgence over the last two years with Texas, posting some of his best numbers since undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2015. Over 46 starts with the Rangers, Lynn went 22-14 with a 3.57 ERA and 1.173 WHIP in 292.1 innings pitched. He also posted career bests in each of the last two seasons in terms of his strikeout and walk rates:

  • 2019: 10.63 K/9, 28.1 K%, 2.55 BB/9, 6.7 BB%
  • 2020: 9.54 K/9, 25.9 K%, 2.68 BB/9, 7.3 BB%

Prior to joining Texas, Lynn had never recorded a walk rate below 8% and had posted only one season with a strikeout rate over 25%. Part of this late-career resurgence is likely in part due to his increased usage of his slider over the last two years. After posting an 11.3% usage rate of his slider in 2018, his slider usage bumped up to 16% in 2019 and then a career-high 23.4% in 2020. And with the increased presence of his slider, Lynn is getting batters to swing and miss more, posting a career-high 12.5% swinging-strike rate in 2019 and an 11.2% rate in 2020 — the second-highest of his career.

OK, so that's what he's done in Texas. What can we expect from him in Chicago?

Lynn will pencil in as the No. 3 starter in Chicago's rotation, slotting in behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. By joining the White Sox, Lynn should see a bump in wins this season thanks to a much better offense in Chicago (5.10 runs per game, .261/.326/.453 in 2020) than he had with Texas (3.73 runs per game, .217/.285/.364). He will likely also benefit from pitching against the AL Central in 2021, as Chicago opponents averaged 4.26 runs per game this year while Texas opponents averaged 4.59 runs per game.

That's all well and good, but fantasy managers should be wary of his ERA. Lynn posted a 3.67 ERA in 2019 and a 3.32 in 2020, but his xFIP (3.85 in 2019, 4.34 in 2020) and SIERA (3.83, 4.08) suggest he was pitching slightly worse than his numbers showed. But again, he will be facing somewhat weaker opponents in the AL Central, which could partially counter any expected regression in his ERA.

So where does that leave us with Lynn? Assuming a full 2021 season is played, Lynn should remain a lock for 10+ wins as he has hit double-digit wins every season except for his rookie campaign and this year's shortened schedule. He should continue to be a strikeout machine with a 9.0 K/9 or better, and while his ERA will likely trend upwards, it likely shouldn't get too much higher than about 3.70-3.80.

Lynn is currently being drafted as a top-25 starting pitcher with an ADP of 62.33, which isn't necessarily a bad place to draft him. If managers are willing to risk the hit to ERA, then he should absolutely be drafted at that ADP based on his wins and strikeout potential. But if managers are planning on being more cautious when it comes to their staff's ERA they should hold off for another round, maybe two. Especially with guys like Framber Valdez, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Pablo Lopez, who are all being drafted after Lynn and can provide comparable value in wins and strikeouts with slightly more upside in ERA.


Dunning and Weems: The Future of the Rangers

Now on to Texas' side of the deal. After making his major league debut in 2020, Dunning is the main piece of this deal heading back to the Rangers. He made seven starts for Chicago this year, going 2-0 with a 3.97 ERA and 9.3 K/9 over 34 innings. It was a solid return to action for Dunning after missing the 2019 campaign due to Tommy John surgery, and it matched up nicely with his career 2.74 ERA and 10.2 K/9 marks over three seasons in the minors. Right now, Dunning is projected as the No. 3 starter for the Rangers and for all the reasons that Lynn should see a boost in value playing for Chicago, Dunning will likely have a downgrade in his value for 2021.

Currently, he's being seen as an end-of-draft flyer based on his 291.11 ADP, which is fitting based on his small body of work at the majors and his slight hit in value playing for Texas. He's a high upside starter, but for 2021 managers should look at him as a high-end streaming option, at least to start the season. Once he can string together a stretch of solid outings then managers should look at rostering him full time. Dunning's greatest value will come in dynasty formats, as he will be 26 next season and should be a consistently high-strikeout pitcher for the next several years. Out of the three pitchers in this trade, Dunning should be the main target of dynasty managers going forward.

And last but not least, the southpaw Weems. He spent 2018 and 2019 working primarily out of the bullpen for the University of Arizona, but after being selected in the 2019 draft by Chicago, Weems was used as a starter in his first year of pro ball. He made 14 starts between AZL White Sox and the Great Falls Voyagers, going 5-4 with a 2.09 ERA and an 11.0 K/9 in 60.1 innings of work. Weems is currently playing in the Puerto Rico Winter League with Atenienses de Manati, making one appearance so far where he allowed one run on two hits and two walks with two strikeouts in 1.2 innings pitched. There's virtually no fantasy value for Weems in anything but the deepest of deep dynasty leagues at the moment, but he is a guy to keep an eye on over the next couple of years in the Rangers' system.

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