While there’s been speculation that veteran right-hander John Lackey could call it a career following the 2017 season, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports (via Twitter) that Lackey has no plans to retire and intends to pitch in 2018.
The 39-year-old Lackey just wrapped up a two-year, $32MM contract with the Cubs. After a strong first season, the 15-year veteran took a step back in 2017, turning in a 4.59 ERA with an NL-high 36 home runs allowed in 170 innings. Lackey, though, delivered a solid 7.9 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 with a 41.2 percent ground-ball rate. Though his velocity took a small step back, Lackey still averaged 90.9 mph on his heater.
While those numbers are the worst Lackey has posted since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2013, he remains a durable arm that can help to stabilize a club’s rotation. Lackey has averaged 30 starts and 193 innings per season dating back to that ’13 campaign, recording a 3.57 ERA in 964 1/3 regular-season innings and a 3.82 ERA in 66 postseason innings along the way.
Between his age and marginal results in the 2017 season with the Cubs, Lackey seems likely to command a one-year deal this offseason from a team in search of consistent innings. The Cubs stand to lose not only Lackey but also Jake Arrieta, so it’s possible that president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer could express interest in bringing Lackey back at a more affordable rate. He should also garner interest from other contenders seeking to stabilize the back of the rotation. Veterans like R.A. Dickey ($8MM) and Bartolo Colon ($12MM) were able to lock in fairly sizable commitments on one-year pacts last winter, and Lackey could very well look to land a deal in the same range.