Chicago Cubs should look to John Lackey this offseason
After working for the rival St. Louis Cardinals, free agent John Lackey would be a perfect fit for the Chicago Cubs’ starting rotation next year.
With all the talk surrounding David Price, Zack Greinke and other elite free agents, there’s one that might be a bit under-the-radar – but could prove to be the deciding factor in the Cubs’ upcoming campaign.
Veteran pitcher John Lackey is a free agent, and the 37-year-old has been ‘checked‘ on by the North Siders.
Think about it. He’s playoff tested, while still pitching at the top of his game and coming off perhaps his finest season (13-10, 2.77 ERA).
I was a huge fan of the idea of signing David Price going all the way back to early June, when the Cubs visited the Detroit Tigers and media speculation went rampant with the idea.
His success is noted, and he would be reunited with his first manager Joe Maddon, someone he has a very strong relationship with. Of course, the kicker isn’t so much the $200 million he’s sure to make this offseason, but rather his lack of true-playoff success.
In October, Price is 2-7 with an ugly 5.12 ERA. Now, one of those wins came in relief with the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. He had one start in the 2011 playoffs; a decent start of 6 2/3 innings while allowing three runs. He had a very good start with the Tigers in the 2014 ALCS in which he went eight-innings, while still getting saddled with a tough 2-1 loss.
He earned his second playoff victory in the year’s playoffs with the Toronto Blue Jays, again in relief. There’s no question he would be a Cy Young talent in Chicago. Maybe reuniting with Maddon at this stage of his career would be just what he needs.
I’m just not in love with the lack-of-October success to go with that bloated contract. Consider the fact he’s already 30, the Cubs have Jon Lester signed long-term and could be targeting their own ace, Jake Arrieta, soon, and the money quickly piles up.
The last thing I want to see is the Cubs hampering their success by getting tied into bloated long-term contracts.
If the signing happened, I won’t try to pretend it doesn’t still excite me. I trust Theo and Co.
Regardless of Price, let’s get back to Lackey.
I think the signing makes sense for no more than a two-year contract. He’d be a quality depth move for the rotation to go along with co-aces Lester and Arrieta. Jeff Samardzija is being linked to the club and Jason Hammel still figures for a fifth-spot in the rotation, unless he’s included in a deal.
I expect the Cubs to make at least one big splash this winter. If they sign Lackey that keeps the door open for Samardzija and maybe re-signing Dexter Fowler or signing Jason Heyward.
The idea of Lackey on the North Side is also intriguing as far as stealing from your division rivals, also at the top of their game, and as the Cubs look to take that next big step. We know the St. Louis Cardinals are always going to be a threat. They can always replace and restock.
Still, signing Lackey away from the Cards would not go unnoticed for a team who looks to do bigger and better things in 2016.
One word describes Lackey. Consistent. He’s averaged right around 12 wins a season during his 15-year career. He possesses a career 3.92 ERA but was more than a run lower than that last season.
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Lackey topped 200-innings for the sixth time in his career last season, and his 218.0 innings in 2015 tops his career-high of 217.2 back in 2006 as a member of the Los Angeles Angels. His last season of 200 innings prior to 2015 was in 2010 when he hit 215.0 with the Boston Red Sox.
He’s been durable throughout his career averaging just under 31 starts a season the last five seasons.
His last start of 2015 ended shorter than he would have liked, lasting just 3.0 innings in Game 4 of the NLDS in which the Cubs tagged him for four runs. He also out-dueled Lester in Game 1 in which he went 7 1/3 innings of two-hit scoreless ball.
Lackey is another member of the Red Sox alumni that Theo and Jed like to court. He has a great relationship with Jon Lester and of course knows David Ross from their 2013 championship days.
He would bring a desire and certain mental toughness that this young Cubs team can feed off of.
I think it’s a no-brainer to give Lackey at least a one-year contract.