2010 Free agent profile: John Lackey

While we’re on the topic of starting pitchers, there seems to be a lot of interest in 30-year old John Lackey, the big righty who silenced the Red Sox in Game 1 of this year’s ALDS. It has been widely reported that the Angels are not at all confident that they can retain his services after this season. Should he go to free agency, it would likely make him the biggest name free agent pitcher this offseason. Nice, solid FIPs from year-to-year, pretty good groundball percentage (43.2% lifetime), low BB rates and steady K rates; there’s a lot to like here.

Lackey is a sinker-curveball-slider pitcher who lives off of being consistent with location, since his heater averages only around 91 mph. That’s actually a good thing for his longevity, because any drop in velocity will not necessarily spell the end for him. They’re all pretty good pitches, but his out pitch is that hard curve, not unlike Josh Beckett. Unlike Beckett, however, Lackey strikes out fewer hitters and pitches a bit more to contact; having a good infield benefits pitchers like him. He is tough on right-handed hitters, but also has a changeup which he shows to lefties occasionally and has played around with a cutter in the past.

Lackey has missed some significant time in each of the past two seasons with tricep and elbow issues, but he has not been considered injury risk until recently; he has made on average 31 starts per season since locking up a rotation spot in 2003. My projections see Lackey as capable of producing a 12-8 record in 27 starts with a 3.87 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 2010 (I would adjust that ERA up just a bit if he pitched half of his starts in Fenway). That would make him a strong number 2-3 on our team, bumping Daisuke Matsuzaka to 4th.

It has been speculated that Lackey is after an A.J. Burnett-type contract (5/82.5M), and given that he will be the top free agent out there, I think it’s very attainable. I think the Sox would prefer to limit any deal to four years maximum, since he will be 31 next season. He is a Type A free agent, so it would also cost a first-round draft pick to sign him. Lackey is originally from Texas, and the Rangers have shown interest in him, but with their finances in disarray, I’m not sure they can grab him. More likely suitors are the Mets, who are looking to bolster their team after an embarrassing 2009. With stiff competition, I don’t think the Sox can land him for anything less than 4/60M or more. With Beckett going into a contract year and several others going to arbitration, I’m not sure we want to commit to a big contract in the rotation unless it’s for the right player. What do you think? Is Lackey that player?


2 Responses to 2010 Free agent profile: John Lackey

  1. Jeff Carini says:

    I think Lackey is that guy. He’s a stud. If Beckett leaves, I’d still be confident with Lester and Lackey at the top of the rotation. Sign him and trade Clay in a package for Adrian Gonzalez.

    I suppose you could wait until 2011 and try and sign Roy Halladay, but Doc will be turning 34 in 2011 and will it be worth making a long term commitment to a pitcher at that age?

    You could get 3 years from Lackey before he turns 34. 5 years/82.5 M sounds like a good deal to me.

  2. redsoxtalk says:

    I think there’s a pretty decent comparison to be made between Lackey and Beckett. If you want to commit this kind of money to Lackey in case Beckett leaves, why not just extend Beckett himself?

    I am percolating a post as I think about this situation about how to go about this offseason. Coming soon!

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