Why Lance Lynn stuck with White Sox and passed on free agency

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Why Lance Lynn passed on free agency to stay on South Side originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Lance Lynn is staying on the South Side, the place he said has felt more like home than any other stop he's made in his decade-long big league career.

The two-year extension announced Saturday officially makes Lynn, believed in December to be a hired gun to help the Chicago White Sox chase their World Series dreams in 2021, a part of the long-term championship planning at the corner of 35th & Shields.

Lynn called the decision a "no-brainer," and the marriage between the White Sox and the veteran righty who's referred to himself as an "a--h---" and a "big bastard" seems a perfect one.

RELATED: Sox start second half of title chase: 'We're not the hunted'

But it's still surprising to see a pro athlete pass on free agency, especially a round coming after the kind of season Lynn's having, one that could have netted him a big payday as the result of a bidding war between pitching-hungry clubs.

Lynn's been a free agent before, so he knows what he would have been getting into. He also knows what he wants. And what he wanted was to stay where he is. To stay home.

"When you start getting older in this game, you realize that where you want to play and where you want to be and what kind of organization you want to be a part of weighs a lot," he said Saturday. "Over the first half of the season, just being able to see how everybody goes about their business here, the group that's here and the group that's going to be here for the next couple of years, it seemed like a pretty easy fit.

"There’s no point in me going into free agency if you know where you want to be."

That's the kind of thing that's sure to melt White Sox fans' hearts.

Lynn has obviously endeared himself on the South Side, where his displays of personality — both on the mound and in postgame press conferences — have White Sox fans feeling like they're looking in a mirror.

It of course helps that Lynn has been downright dominant, entrenching himself in the American League Cy Young conversation with a 1.99 ERA and showing he's exactly what the White Sox needed after running out of reliable starting-pitching options in their playoff series with the Oakland Athletics last fall.

So while Lynn is getting to stay right where he wants to be, the feeling is undoubtedly mutual, and the White Sox are getting multiple years of a guy who's been among the best pitchers in baseball and a tremendously positive presence in the clubhouse.

"He would've had his choice, right? He wasn't forced to take that deal with the kind of year he's having," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said Saturday. "I don't know what the money is, but he certainly would be a pitcher that would be interesting to a lot of clubs.

"Evidently, he likes what he sees here and wants to be a part of it going forward."

And while feel and comfort are obviously important factors to Lynn, it's true that he likes what he sees.

Players, whether they end up chasing big paydays or not, always talk about wanting a chance to win. And Lynn's commitment to the White Sox — or rather his desire to pass up free agency in order to secure his place here — shows that what general manager Rick Hahn has built continues to appeal to players around the game.

Certainly that's why Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel and Liam Hendriks signed up as free agents. And Lynn echoed his teammates — guys who will now be his teammates for years to come — in explaining why he agreed to the extension.

"What the White Sox have going on here with the young talent — not only at the big league level, but when you start seeing these guys come up (from the minor leagues) — there's a window here to win," Lynn said. "I'm super excited about being a part of something here and bringing a championship to the South Side.

"This is where I wanted to be. They wanted to keep me here. And to be wanted is an awesome feeling. So I'm really looking forward to pitching here for the next few years and doing everything I can to help this organization to achieve what they're setting out to do, and that's winning another championship.

"When I met Jerry (Reinsdorf, team chairman) in spring training this year, the first thing he said was, 'I'm looking to win another championship.' And that's what I'm all about, trying to do everything I can to win. So I'm here to help try to do that."

With Lynn in tow through at least the 2023 season — there's a team option for 2024, as well — the White Sox have only improved their ability to maximize their contention window. The starting rotation becomes pretty easy to project from here on out, including Lynn, Keuchel, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech. Of course, there's also Carlos Rodón, who like Lynn just returned from the All-Star Game. He's having a sensational season, too, and is set to hit free agency after the close of the campaign.

Lynn, though, won't be joining him on the open market. And while perhaps a little surprising, it's exactly what Lynn wants.

Because he found exactly the place he wants to be.

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