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.