FORT MYERS, FLA. – Lance Lynn articulated how far the Twins have come this winter.
“When I looked at the offseason, I wanted to go somewhere where they had a chance to win no matter what,” the newest Twins pitcher said Tuesday during his introductory news conference, “and this is a place that presented itself as the offseason went on.”
As the offseason went on, the Twins shifted from having hopes of signing righthander Yu Darvish to a deal that would have cost at least $20 million a year to bringing in three players — Lynn, pitcher Jake Odorizzi and slugger Logan Morrison — for about $24.8 million in base salary. Lynn signed a one-year, $12 million contract Monday and was impressed by how the Twins have built their roster.
“I don’t think I’m taking a risk at all,” the righthander said. “I wanted to go to a place that had a chance to win, no matter what. It seemed like a perfect fit.”
Lynn, 30, will receive a $1 million bonus for reaching 170 innings and another $1 million if he reaches 180 innings.
“It’s just another high-end piece for us,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “As a manager, when you have these types of moves, it is really exciting.”
A little more than two hours later, Lynn threw three hitless innings in his Twins debut. He used 41 pitches, including only eight in the second inning. He displayed a fastball that touched 94 miles an hour a couple of times and the ability to sink pitches and keep them down in the strike zone.
“To get out there and have success right away is good,” Lynn said, “but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Molitor liked what he saw.
“Attack, that’s what I thought,” Molitor said. “You’re not sure how sharp his command was going to be, but he poured it in there pretty good.”
Lynn could make two more starts in camp, but might need one more appearance in the minors in order to strengthen his arm. Twins General Manager Thad Levine told MLB Network that Lynn could start April 2 or 4 in Pittsburgh. The Twins open March 29 in Baltimore.
Signing Lynn raised the Twins payroll to the $128 million range, but Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said owner Jim Pohlad didn’t hesitate to “go beyond our comfort level” with the signing.
Lynn entered the offseason hoping for a big multiyear deal, but ended up signing for one year to possibly re-enter the market after the 2018 season. When asked about motivation, he said, “The chip on my shoulder’s been there since I was born. I’m pretty sure that’s the way my dad says it. So that’s not changing. This market’s not changing that. That’s something I use to compete and it helps drive me.”
But when it was time to choose a team it was the Twins, based on how they have added players in recent weeks.
Odorizzi joined Feb. 17 in a trade with Tampa Bay. Morrison, Odorizzi’s teammate with the Rays, decided to sign with the Twins for $6.5 million with incentives Feb. 28.
Morrison happened to be working out with Lynn at the Cressey Sports Performance Center in Jupiter, Fla. Lynn saw what the Twins were doing and decided to join them.
“You guys know Logan briefly, but it’s hard not to hear him,” Lynn said. “He’s great for a lot of different things. He tells you the truth. When it came down to choosing at the end, I got his opinion and [new Twins pitcher] Zach Duke’s. I’ve known Zach for more than two years now, and they’re both guys I think highly of as people and players, so it was a pretty easy choice.”
Each move seemed to build momentum into the next one. Now the Twins are viewed as a destination franchise. They’ve come a long way from late July, when they pivoted from being buyers to sellers in a span of a week.
“Players want to be part of a winning environment and a part of a competitive environment,” Falvey said. “[Lynn] wants to compete, he wants to win. Those were the options he was looking at. It’s great a year later to be in a position — where, last year, maybe [we] were hopeful we’d be moving in the right direction — to now have expectations.”
An All-Star in 2012, Lynn has been a double-digit winner with the Cardinals five times, and owns a 3.38 ERA in 183 career games. Lynn missed the 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery to replace a ligament in his right elbow, but started 33 games for St. Louis last year — tying for the National League lead — and went 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA.
Lynn declined a $17.4 million qualifying offer from St. Louis in November. Because he was tendered, the Twins will forfeit their third-round pick, No. 95 overall, in June’s draft and lose $500,000 in their international free-agent budget.
If the Twins get the production from Lynn they expect, it will be worth the move.
“It’s a new opportunity to show what I can do in a new league and all that,” Lynn said. “So I’m definitely looking forward to it, and just excited for a chance to play for a team that’s got a chance to win.”