Chicago Cubs Rumors: John Lackey a “likely” fit for the club


A recent report named the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants as the front-runners to land veteran John Lackey this offseason.

Heading into the Winter Meetings in early December, all the attention will be centered around the likes of free agent studs David Price and Zack Greinke – and with good reason. Both pitchers were finalists for the Cy Young Award in their respective leagues.

But as Chicago Cubs fans are well aware of, sometimes the player you want the most (in this case, either of those aces) isn’t who you wind up picking up. With National League Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta and veteran Jon Lester atop the rotation, it’d hardly be surprising to see the team focus on middle-rotation depth, instead of throwing $200MM at one player.

The appeal of Price and Greinke is obvious, but if Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer can take those same funds, rebuild the back-end of the rotation and bring back someone like Dexter Fowler, I can’t say I’d be too disappointed with the offseason, as a whole.

According to at least one report, one target for Chicago this winter could be veteran hurler John Lackey, who was on the mound against the Cubs when the North Siders captured their first postseason series at Wrigley Field in team history. As we all recall, he served up that opposite-field blast to Javier Baez that put the proverbial nail in the St. Louis Cardinals’ coffin.

So as much as I was irritated by Lackey when he was with St. Louis, he’s one of those guys you can’t help but love when he’s donning your team’s colors. I mean, really.

At age 36 this past season, Lackey made 33 starts for the Redbirds, pitching to a 2.77 earned run average – a new career-high for the right-hander. He also racked up 218 innings pitched, his most in a single season since 2007, when he was an All-Star with the then-Anaheim Angels. His performance was good enough to net him a ninth-place finish in the NL Cy Young voting, as well.

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Now, there are a couple prefaces any deal with Lackey should have. Nothing more than two years; if he wants a third year guaranteed, then let him go elsewhere. I can find you a list of other arms available who are younger and safer bets for such an offer.

Second, understand that you’re probably not going to get the 2015 John Lackey, who, all of the sudden, returned to dominance after years of solid, but certainly not stellar, years on the mound. He’s going to pitch 170 to 180 innings and win 10 to 12 games. At least, that’s the safe bet.

When you add someone like Lackey into the picture behind Arrieta and Lester and alongside Jason Hammel, who was outstanding prior to his hamstring injury, and Kyle Hendricks, who was a nice back-end piece yet-again for Chicago, you have to feel better about the pitching staff heading into 2016.

Keep the expectations at a minimum. Double-digit wins and a mid-to-high 3.00 ERA is what you’re going to see from Lackey at this point. If you can accept that, then it’s hard to envision a scenario where such a deal doesn’t make everyone happy.