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John Lackey Rumors
Reports from earlier this winter indicated that the Cardinals and John Lackey would be discussing “possibly reworking” the veteran righty’s league-minimum salary for the 2015 season. With Spring Training about to begin, however, the two sides don’t appear to be close to either a new 2015 contract nor a multi-year extension, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
“Obviously, the (minimum salary for Lackey) compensation for 2015 was attractive to us. In terms of trying to change that structure, I don’t know if both parties are going to find there’s a very desirable reason to do that, considering the opportunities that might exist for him entering his free agent year,” Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said. “I’m not closing the door on anything but I’m not pursuing anything either at this point. I don’t feel that either party is pushing, for that matter.”
Lackey himself also confirmed that there was “nothing close” in contract talks, though he was open to staying in St. Louis beyond this season. “If it’s something that works for both sides. I would like it,” Lackey said. “This group of guys…this organization…it’s a great place to be and it’s something I would entertain for sure.”
The five-year, $82.5MM contract Lackey signed with the Red Sox in December 2009 contained a clause that added a team option season (at the league minimum) if Lackey was to miss significant time with an elbow injury. This clause was triggered once Lackey spent all of 2012 on the disabled list recovering from Tommy John surgery, and after Lackey returned from injury to throw quality seasons in each of 2013 and 2014, he stands as one of the biggest bargains in the game.
As Mozeliak noted, getting an established quality starter for only $507.5K in 2015 was undoubtedly a major reason why the Cards acquired Lackey from the Sox last July. Likewise, the club may also be wary about extending a pitcher entering his age-36 season. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd pointed out in December that there’s really no reason for the Cardinals to renegotiate Lackey’s 2015 deal unless they were able to work out an extension “that added a reasonably priced season or two to the 36-year-old’s deal.”
From Lackey’s perspective, he may not want to sign an extension that locks him in at what could be another team-friendly price, as he undoubtedly feels his 2013-14 performance (and obviously what he hopes is a similar or better 2015 season) should earn him another significant multi-year commitment. This is probably Lackey’s last shot at a such a deal, so there’s all the more reason for him to maximize his earnings. On other hand, Lackey already has a lot of money in the bank and may be more concerned with winning at this stage in his career, so it’d make sense that he wants to stay with the perennially-contending Cardinals.
The Braves have already received attractive trade proposals for outfielder Justin Upton, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. With several free agents off the board, a deal could come together soon, per Sherman, possibly during the upcoming Winter Meetings. The team’s addition of free agent Nick Markakis would appear to increase the odds of the club dealing Upton and/or Evan Gattis, though its final course remains unclear.
More from the National League:
- The Braves, Cubs, and Padres are among the teams pursuing free agent catcher David Ross, along with the incumbent Red Sox, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 37-year-old Ross rates among the game’s most respected veterans.
- The Rockies have expressed interest in free agent backstop Nick Hundley, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. Were the team to add Hundley or another option, it would likely deal Wilin Rosario, Crasnick adds.
- Though John Lackey is under contract at league minimum for 2015, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak will meet with his representatives at the upcoming Winter Meetings to discuss “possibly reworking” that deal, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports on Twitter. It is not entirely clear what manner of modification could be contemplated, though one would expect that St. Louis would only be interested in a proposal that added a reasonably priced season or two to the 36-year-old’s deal.
- The Cardinals have promoted Chris Correa to become the club’s new scouting director, Langosch reports. The club had an opening arise recently when Dan Kantrovitz left to become an assistant GM with the Athletics.
The move is little more than a formality, as there was never any real doubt that the Cardinals would exercise the mere $500K option. That option was a large part of the reason that Lackey was so desirable at this year’s trade deadline and a large part of the reason that the club was willing to part with both Joe Kelly and Allen Craig to land him.
Lackey’s original five-year, $82.5MM contract with the Red Sox contained a clause stipulating that if he were to miss a year due to a significant elbow injury, Boston would gain a sixth-year option at the league minimum rate. Lackey underwent Tommy John surgery during the life of that original five-year term, thus triggering the clause. Though the salary is obviously not ideal for Lackey, he has said multiple times that he plans to honor the commitment.
Lackey, who turned 36 last week, pitched to a 3.82 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 198 innings for the Red Sox and Cardinals this season. However, he was markedly better with Boston than he was with St. Louis, as he posted a 3.60 ERA (3.56 FIP) with the Sox compared to a 4.30 ERA (4.27 FIP) with the Cards.
A group of former minor leaguers has filed a lawsuit protesting that while they were playing, they received less than minimum wage and did not receive overtime, working for tiny monthly salaries to pursue their dream of making it to the Majors. Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star traveled to Clinton, Iowa as part of a long exposé on working conditions in the minor leagues. Class A players, for example, only make about $6,300 for an entire season, earning only per diems for instructional leagues and mandatory spring training. NBA and NHL minor leaguers make many times that amount. The extremely low wages for minor league baseball players might not be a hardship for early-round picks who receive six- or seven-figure bonuses, but they’re especially tough on the many players who sign for only a few thousand dollars. Here are more notes from around the game.
- A number of Cardinals players were at Busch Stadium Friday to pack their belongings, with some players not knowing whether they’ll return next season, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. 2014 was “up and down,” says Peter Bourjos, who made $1.2MM this season and is eligible for arbitration for the second time this winter. “Inconsistent playing time, inconsistent results — that’s how it goes sometimes. If there’s an opportunity out there, I’d like to play every day.” One player who sounds like he’ll certainly be returning is John Lackey, who says he has “every intention” of playing next season even though the Cardinals have an option on him for the league minimum salary. Also, impending free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski says he’d like to continue playing. It’s unlikely that the Cardinals will re-sign him, however, with Yadier Molina and Tony Cruz at the catcher position.
- Two years after their last playoff game, the Yankees‘ roster is dramatically different, Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog writes. Of the 19 players Yankees who appeared in Game 4 of the 2012 ALCS, just four — Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez and C.C. Sabathia — are under contract for 2015.
Previous experience is no longer the most important criterion for teams deciding on new managers, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes. “There are managers who are in the postseason right now who didn’t have one game of experience as manager,” says Twins GM Terry Ryan. A number of recent hirees have had little or no previous managerial experience, including Mike Matheny of the Cardinals and Brad Ausmus of the Tigers. It sounds like the Twins might not prioritize experience in their search for a manager, either. The Twins have recently interviewed Paul Molitor and Doug Mientkiewicz, neither of whom have been big-league managers, although Mientkiewicz has managed in the minors. Here are more notes from the American League.
- The Red Sox might end up regretting trading John Lackey to the Cardinals, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. Lackey had an option for 2015 at the league minimum salary due to an elbow injury, and that made him very valuable. But Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, who the Red Sox received in return, have been disappointing, or at least questionable. Craig hit just .128/.234/.191 in 107 plate appearances in Boston. Kelly had a respectable 4.11 ERA in 61 1/3 innings, but with 6.0 K/9 and a very high 4.7 BB/9.
- The Tigers, who were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, are now “expensive, star-laden and old,” Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The Tigers have gone to the playoffs the last four seasons, but they’ve fallen short of a World Series victory each time, and now they have Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera signed to long and potentially onerous contracts.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the waiver deadline period could produce some significant deals around baseball. The Phillies probably won’t find deals for Jonathan Papelbon (contract) and Cliff Lee (health concerns plus contract) but A.J. Burnett could conceivably be moved. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays continue to, as one executive said to Cafardo, “kick the tires on just about everything but never seem to do anything.” More from today’s column..
- The Red Sox may have been scouting Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, but their dialogue with the Dodgers was virtually nonexistent despite the constant rumors connecting the two. The Dodgers, Cafardo writes, were never going to deal Kemp, who has been one of their best right-handed hitters.
- The Dodgers were also never really in on Red Sox hurlers Jon Lester or John Lackey but really wanted Andrew Miller and came close to giving Boston one of their best pitching prospects for him.
- It seems as if the Red Sox and other teams have finally come to the realization that Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton isn’t going anywhere and that could be a reason why the Red Sox obtained Yoenis Cespedes, who obviously isn’t as good but has the power and athleticism to improve. For now, he seems to feel that Miami is moving in the right direction and appears to be all in on staying with the Marlins.
- The buzz around baseball is that the Cubs will be all in on Jon Lester. Cubs president Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod were in Boston with Lester during his trying times. Also, the Cubs will have to rebuild their rotation at some point and adding Lester would be a major, major step in that direction.
Here’s what’s happening around the NL Central…
- John Lackey told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jen Langosch) that he will honor his contract and pitch in 2015 despite the fact that he’ll only earn a minimum salary. The fact that Lackey was traded to the contending Cardinals played a factor in his decision: “Obviously, it was case by case. It would have been a harder decision other places, for sure, but this is definitely somewhere I wanted to be, and I’m excited about it.”
- The Brewers checked in on such names as the Padres‘ Joaquin Benoit, the Rockies‘ LaTroy Hawkins and the Diamondbacks‘ Addison Reed and Brad Ziegler yet came up short in their hunt for a right-handed reliever, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Twitter link). Earlier today, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Crew were one of the finalists to obtain a notable lefty reliever in Andrew Miller.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington discussed his team’s lack of trade activity, telling reporters (including MLB.com’s Tom Singer) that “we identified potential fits, wanted to add and worked hard to. At the end of the day, we weren’t able to push anything across the line….It was interesting, in that the majority of impact players went for Major League talent instead of teams trying to grab the best prospects they can, as has been the case in recent years.” Since Pittsburgh was connected to Jon Lester and David Price, Singer speculates that Huntington was perhaps willing to move young prospects for these aces but couldn’t outbid the A’s and Tigers’ respective offers, both of which included established players.
In their second blockbuster trade of the day, the Red Sox sent veteran starting pitcher John Lackey to the Cardinals along with minor leaguer Corey Littrell and about $1.75MM in cash in exchange for young starter Joe Kelly and outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig. The deal is now official. The Red Sox continue to focus on players that can help them win in the near future, having traded Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes for Yoenis Cespedes earlier today. The Cardinals further bolster their rotation, having acquired Justin Masterson from the Indians yesterday.
Lackey, 35, has a 3.60 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.98 HR/9, and 46.9% groundball rate in 137 1/3 innings this year. His 2014 numbers closely resemble his work last year, a resurgent season after his 2011 campaign culminated in Tommy John surgery and he missed all of 2012. A second round draft pick in 1999, Lackey spent the early part of his career as a front of the rotation workhorse for the Angels.
Lackey joins Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn at the front of a St. Louis rotation that suffered several blows this year. Jaime Garcia is out for the season after rib surgery this month, while Michael Wacha will return in September in the best case scenario as he recovers from a stress reaction in his pitching shoulder. In addition, the Cards received unspectacular work from Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly. Masterson is due back soon from a DL stint for knee inflammation, and hopes to put this year’s struggles behind him before reaching free agency. The Cardinals are currently in third place and 2.5 games out in the NL Central, and one game out in the Wild Card.
The Cardinals also receive Littrell, a 22-year-old starter in High-A ball who was drafted in the fifth round last year out of the University of Kentucky. He owns a 3.60 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, and 0.72 HR/9 in 100 frames this year. Littrell did not rank among the Cardinals’ top 30 prospects prior to the season in the eyes of Baseball America, though BA ranked the team’s farm system seventh overall.
Kelly, 26, posted a 4.37 ERA, 6.4 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.77 HR/9, and 54.3% groundball rate in 35 innings for the Cardinals this year. He won the team’s fifth starter job out of spring training, but injured his hamstring in mid-April and missed nearly three months. Kelly will have two years and 116 days of Major League service after 2014, meaning he’ll likely miss Super Two status and won’t become arbitration eligible until after the 2015 season. He’s under team control through 2018. Kelly boasts an average fastball velocity near 95 miles per hour, a 3.25 career ERA, and 29 1/3 innings of postseason experience, but his peripheral stats don’t quite match up.
Craig, 30, has slumped to a .237/.291/.346 line in 398 plate appearances this year. He hit .306/.358/.492 in 1,420 plate appearances prior to 2014, suggesting he could bounce back for Boston. Craig signed a five-year, $31MM deal with the Cardinals in March 2013, of which about $26.4MM remains through 2017. The deal also includes a club option for 2018. Craig has appeared at first base and the outfield corners in his career, though he’s generally regarded as a below-average defensive outfielder. The Red Sox have designated hitter David Ortiz potentially through 2017, though first baseman Mike Napoli and outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Shane Victorino are signed only through 2015.
The 2011 Tommy John procedure plays a large role in Lackey’s trade value. When the Red Sox signed Lackey to a five-year free agent deal in December 2009, concerns over his elbow led to a clause creating a club option for the league-minimum salary for 2015, which was triggered with the Tommy John procedure. That means playing for little more than $500K next year after earning more than 30 times that much in each of the previous four seasons. Lackey has told the Cardinals he plans to honor the club option, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
This season, Lackey has a bit over $5MM in salary remaining, plus a $500K assignment bonus for being dealt. He had been scheduled to start tomorrow in Boston as the Red Sox kick off a three-game set against the Yankees.
Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com first reported the Red Sox were close to trading Lackey to the Cardinals or Dodgers. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first identified the Cardinals. Peter Gammons of MLB Network first named Joe Kelly and Allen Craig as part of the deal. WEEI’s Alex Speier first named Corey Littrell as part of the deal, while Yahoo’s Jeff Passan was first to report the cash involved. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
11:35am: The Cardinals are getting Lackey, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Yesterday we learned there’s a “very good chance” that the Red Sox will trade right-hander John Lackey in advance of this afternoon’s non-waiver trade deadline. The Royals, Indians, and Dodgers have been linked to the right-hander, while the Angels and Brewers are reportedly not pursuing him. The Marlins were also linked to Lackey, though reports on the likelihood of that deal vary from “zero chance” to the two sides still discussing potential deals. Here’s the latest Lackey buzz as the deadline looms…
- The Red Sox are still working to trade Lackey, tweets Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, with a source giving a 70% chance he’s dealt today.
- The Pirates were known to have interest in Jon Lester before he was traded to Oakland, but prior to that trade today Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe said the Bucs were in on Lackey as well. Cafardo also weighed in on previous interest from San Francisco, writing, “The Giants, who acquired [Jake] Peavy last weekend, were also in the hunt for another arm, and Lackey was also mentioned.”