What the Dodgers and White Sox Got in the Lance Lynn-Joe Kelly Trade

Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn

Just a few days before the 2023 MLB Trade Deadline, the Dodgers swung a much-anticipated trade for a starter. Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly are headed to Los Angeles, in exchange for former White Sox Trayce Thompson and two Minor Leaguers in Nick Nastrini and Jordan Leasure. Here’s a closer look at the deal.

Related: What the Astros and White Sox Got in the Kendall Graveman-Korey Lee Trade

The Dodgers’ Return

  • SP Lance Lynn (6.47 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 144 K over 119.2 IP)
  • RP Joe Kelly (4.87 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 41 K over 29 IP)

There may not be a pitcher that’s had a stranger year in 2023 thus far than Lance Lynn. The 36-year-old struck out 144 batters over his first 119.2 IP of the 2023 MLB season and leaves the AL tied for fifth in strikeouts along with Gerrit Cole. However, he’s given up 28 home runs on the season — the most in MLB — and owns an ERA of 6.47.

Lynn gets a ton of whiffs off the four-seamer and cutter — when he’s hitting his spots. The veteran righty doesn’t have a high-velocity fastball, but it does have plenty of spin and can be very difficult to pick up when it’s put up in the zone and away from the middle of the plate.

Ultimately, Lynn’s command will be the difference maker. If he can effectively work his fastball up and stay away from the middle of the plate, the 36-year-old can be beneficial to a rotation that currently includes Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias, and should welcome back Clayton Kershaw soon. 

The other piece in this deal is Joe Kelly. Kelly returns to the Dodgers, the team he won his second World Series title with in 2020.

While Kelly has a 4.97 ERA with the White Sox this season, the 35-year-old still possesses premium velocity. Armed with a hard sinker and four-seamer, as well as a slider, curveball, and changeup, Kelly can really frustrate opposing hitters when he hits his spots.

Left-hander Justin Bruihl and infielder Eddys Leonard were DFA’d by the Dodgers, two moves that will free up space on the 40-man roster for Lynn and Kelly.

The White Sox’s Return

  • OF Trayce Thompson (.155/.310/.366 slash line, five home runs and five extra base hits over 36 games)
  • SP Nick Nastrini (4.07 ERA, 1,40 WHIP, 85 K over 73.2 IP (AA))
  • RP Jordan Leasure (3.09 ERA, 1.06 WHIP. 56 K over 35 IP (AA))

The White Sox received two Minor League pitchers, as well as a Major Leaguer in Trayce Thompson.
Thompson is set to return to the team that drafted him out of high school in 2009. The 32-year-old had his best statistical season as a Major Leaguer last year, when he hit .256/.353/.507 with 13 home runs and 28 extra base hits across 80 games, most of which were with the Dodgers.

He’s got plenty of power and doesn’t chase much, but swings through a lot of pitches and posted the eighth-worst Whiff% rate (37.8%) in MLB last season. Thompson is on the IL with an oblique injury, but he made several appearances on a rehab assignment with Oklahoma City (AAA) prior to the deal.

Nick Nastrini is the big piece in this deal. Nastrini struggled in his junior year at UCLA in 2021, but he put up a strong season one year later in the Dodgers organization, when he struck out 169 batters over 116.2 IP across two levels (A+ and AA) and opposing hitters batted just .180 against him.

His numbers haven’t been as good this season — his ERA is up slightly, and opposing hitters have hit .232 off Nastrini. The 6 ‘3’’ right-hander flashed good stuff, including a pretty solid changeup and a very tricky slider that can just run away from right-handed hitters.

He’s got the stuff to be a Major League pitcher, but command is still a sticking point.

As for Leasure, the right-handed reliever has an explosive delivery and has accumulated a lot of strikeouts in the Minors in his pro career. Since being drafted out of Tampa in the 14th round of the 2021 MLB Draft, Leasure has 153 strikeouts over 104 career innings.

MLB.com ranked Nastrini as the White Sox’s fourth-best prospect. Leasure now ranks as the 26th-best prospect in the Chicago system.

The Verdict

The Dodgers added two pitchers with a plethora of experience, and Los Angeles pulled it off without dealing away an arm like Ryan Pepiot or Emmet Sheehan. Los Angeles needed a starter in the worst way, and they’ll hope that Lynn can find consistency in Southern California.

The White Sox, meanwhile, picked up an interesting reliever with upside, along with a starter in Nastrini that could develop into a #2 or a #3 when it’s all said and done.