Lance Lynn fit what the Yankees needed ideally. It is not just that he has been among the majors’ best pitchers since he left New York two years ago. He has arguably been the most durable.
And the Yankees could sure use more certain rotation innings heading toward 2021.
But sources told The Post that the Yankees were not engaged with the Rangers on Lynn. Instead, Texas traded the righty on Monday night to the White Sox to form a rotation front three with Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel that projects to have the kind of veteran surety atop the rotation lacking with the Yankees.
Because, behind Gerrit Cole, the Yankees have rotation promise and no idea how many innings can be expected from Deivi Garcia, Domingo German, Mike King, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino and Clarke Schmidt, who combined in the shortened 2020 season to make 28 appearances, including 21 starts, and throw 111 ¹/₃ innings.
The two most prominent starters on the early trade market were Lynn and Sonny Gray, who have excelled since leaving the Yankees following the 2018 season, both operating on team-friendly contracts. While I see Gray as a pitcher who failed as a Yankee because he was uncomfortable with and overwhelmed by New York, I do not think the same of Lynn. He was a Yankee just briefly in 2018 without a defined role. He has grown into something far better since his departure.
In the last two seasons, only Jacob deGrom at 10.2 had a greater pitching Wins Above Replacement (Baseball-Reference) than Lynn at 9.8 (Cole at 8.8 was third).
Lynn has an ERA in that time frame 40 percent better than MLB average (accounting for league and ballpark) and an OPS-against 25 percent better. But it is the reliable innings that should have captivated the Yankees. In the past two years, Lynn leads the majors in starts (46) and innings (292 ¹/₃). In 2019-20, Lynn led the majors in starts of at least five innings (45, Cole was second at 43), was second in going at least six innings (36, Cole was first at 37), was second in working at least seven innings (21, deGrom was first at 22) and Lynn threw at least 100 pitches 44 times (Trevor Bauer was next at 37).
Bauer is available for cash. But the Yankees have given no indication of spending big on anybody except DJ LeMahieu (maybe not even him) or disregarding and disrespecting Cole by reuniting him with Bauer, with whom he has an uneasy relationship dating to their UCLA days.
The Yankees have been associated with Corey Kluber. But the righty has made eight starts the past two injury-filled years and he turns 35 in April. Kluber is a gamble teams with rotation solidity make because the downside does not impair them. The Yanks lack that solidity. They have Cole and pray for an NFL once-a-week schedule.
MLB and the Players Association are expected to begin meatier negotiations this week about the structure for a 2021 season, as The Post’s Ken Davidoff reported Sunday. But schedule length probably will remain uncertain until there is greater knowledge of the speed and success of a COVID-19 vaccine.
No team would benefit more from a season shortened to, say, 135 games than the Yankees. Perhaps a May start would get them closer to having Severino back from February 2020 Tommy John surgery to lessen the innings burden on the others.
Right now, though, the only schedule is for 162 games and the union is going to want to play and get paid for that amount. At that length, every team would be challenged to cover the necessary 1,450-ish innings. Lynn, at 84, threw the most regular-season innings in 2020. So even veterans will have to rebuild. There was no minor league season for steady climbs in youngsters’ workloads. Teams will need quantity of arms as much as ever if there is a 162-game 2021 season.
The Yanks have been careful in raising pitcher workloads. So what will they ask of Severino, who has made five starts (postseason included) since 2018? Or German, who has not pitched since Sept. 18, 2019, due to being suspended for a domestic abuse violation? Montgomery has thrown 75 ¹/₃ regular-season innings the last three years. Garcia and King have exceeded 100 innings in the minors, Schmidt has never even done that.
The Yanks internally believe Severino, German, Schmidt and Garcia have No. 2-4 starter talent. King is viewed as a solid back-end complement, with Nick Nelson and Miguel Yajure providing 2021 starting depth. But that is a lot of uncertainty and combustibility for a team that will again be championship or bust. And what if even a month-long injury befell Cole? You can begin to see a formula in which the Yanks could not bullpen and hit their way out of an underperforming 2021.
Lynn is no Cole. But he is as close to sure innings for a job as treacherous as throwing a baseball hard. He has one year left on a three-year contract and counts just $10 million toward the luxury-tax payroll. Expect that Masahiro Tanaka would cost more in 2021 on a multi-year pact.
Yet, the Yankees made no strong efforts toward a reunion. Instead, a team already with more certainty atop the rotation in the White Sox added Lynn. At this moment, the Yanks could use Tanaka. Heck, they could use J.A. Happ. Are they really going to risk 2021 on Gerrit Cole and the Uncertainties?