Dodgers decline option on All-Star righty

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The Dodgers have declined their club option on right-hander Lance Lynn, per Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic. They will pay him a $1M buyout and send him to free agency instead of retaining him with an $18M salary for 2024.

The move doesn’t come as a surprise, as Lynn just wrapped up the worst season of his career. He made 32 starts in 2023 between the White Sox and the Dodgers, switching teams in a trade prior to the deadline. His 23.6% strikeout rate and 8.3% walk rate were both around league average, but he was victimized by the long ball. He allowed an incredible 44 fly balls to go over the fence this past season, the most of any pitcher in the league and easily the highest tally of his career. Despite those struggles, the Dodgers’ rotation had been decimated by injuries and they sent Lynn to the mound in the playoffs. He started Game 3 of the NLDS against the Diamondbacks with two scoreless innings but allowed four home runs in the third, getting pulled before finishing that inning.

The Dodgers need starting pitching next year but it’s understandable they didn’t want to commit $17M to Lynn just as the offseason is kicking off. After his poor results this year, he will likely have to settle for a lower salary than that. He may be able to top that number in total guarantee if he can find a multi-year deal, as even back-end veteran types can often get to eight figures on an annual basis.

Though the 2023 season was obviously rough and he turns 37 in May, Lynn will still have appeal as a bounceback candidate. He has a career ERA of 3.74 in a career that dates back to 2011. In each of the four seasons prior to 2023, he kept his ERA under 4.00. In that 2019 to 2022 stretch, he made 95 starts with a 3.42 ERA, 26.8% strikeout rate and 6.2% walk rate.

Veteran starters can often find decent contracts for themselves, even when the expectations of their production have waned. Zack Greinke got $13M from the Royals going into 2022 and another $8.5M going into 2023, his age-38 and age-39 seasons. Corey Kluber got $10MM from the Red Sox prior to 2023, even with questions about his health and effectiveness. 43-year-old Rich Hill got $8M from the Pirates for 2023. Perhaps some club thinks they can get Lynn back on track or merely have him serve as an innings-eater, but he should be able to find a decent contract regardless.

As for the Dodgers, they go into the winter with plenty of question marks in their rotation. Lynn is now heading into free agency, joining Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw. The latter has re-signed with the Dodgers many times but is slated for an uncertain road back from shoulder surgery. That leaves Walker Buehler, who missed all of 2023 recovering from Tommy John surgery, as well as a batch of guys with limited experience like Bobby Miller, Emmet Sheehan, Ryan Pepiot, Gavin Stone and Michael Grove. There’s also Ryan Yarbrough in the mix but he’s a non-tender candidate.

The club has plenty of payroll space to work with and will likely be very active in free agency. They are expected to pursue two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, though he won’t be pitching in 2024. The other top names on the pitching market will be Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Blake Snell, Aaron Nola and Jordan Montgomery, with many others also available.

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