UPDATED: Lackey Taking Physical for Red Sox
|12.14.09 at 12:56 pm ET|
WEEI.com has confirmed that right-handed pitcher John Lackey is in Boston undergoing a physical for the Red Sox. The physical was first reported by Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse (via Twitter), with FoxSports.com suggesting that the exam could be a prelude to a deal.
Major-league executives said that Lackey was seeking at least the five-year, $82.5 million deal that A.J. Burnett received last offseason in free agency from the Yankees. (UPDATE at 3:30 p.m.: Jon Heyman of SI.com is reporting that the deal could be worth roughly $85 million over five years.)
As the top available free-agent starter this offseason, Lackey had received interest from several clubs, with the Angels suggesting that their hopes of retaining Lackey were part of the reason why they might not be able to pursue Jason Bay. Angels skipper Mike Scioscia had nothing but raves about the right-hander, who was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as a rookie.
“John is obviously one of the top starting pitchers in our league,” said Scioscia. “I don’t know if there’s many pitchers that are out there, certainly this year there aren’t many pitchers that are out there, that would be available, that are going to combine the depth that he can pitch in an individual game with his ability to go out there and compete in any situation in any ballpark. That’s what makes — that’s why we want him back in an Angels’ uniform and that’s also why other teams are interested in John.
“John could handle playing anywhere. He could handle playing in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, any area. This guy is as focused as any pitcher I’ve seen with the ability to just forget about the environment he’s pitching in and focus in on that catcher and what he needs to do in a certain situation against a hitter and execute it. A lot of guys have the focus, they just aren’t able to do it. … John is a special talent. We certainly — we appreciate it, and hopefully we’re going to see him in an Angels uniform next year.”
Red Sox manager Terry Francona expressed his admiration for Lackey earlier this offseason on the Dale & Holley Show. At the same time, the Sox skipper acknowledged the risk associated with pursuing a top-of-the-rotation pitcher for a long-term deal.
“John Lackey is one of the best. Every year, there’s a couple guys that seem like they can sway the fortunes of an organization. He’s that type of pitcher,” said Francona. “Now, to get that type of pitcher, you’re going to have to make quite a commitment. That’s something that makes our organization a little bit uneasy. It doesn’t mean a guy can’t come in and help you win. If there’s an injury along the way, that can set your organization back quite a bit. There’s a lot to think about besides just the year 2010. You’re possibly talking about 2015. That’s a lot of years.
“I probably do [consider him an ace],” he continued. “He’s missed a little bit of time, but when he’s out there, I think their team feels it’s going to win. He can match up against [Josh] Beckett, [Jon] Lester. He can go head-to-head with the better guys in the league and hold his own.”
Lackey, 31, owns a career 102-71 record with a 3.81 ERA while averaging 7.2 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings. He had made at least 32 starts for five straight years, from 2003-07, before being limited to 24 starts in 2008 and 27 starts in 2009 by a triceps injury in 2008 and elbow inflammation this year. Nonetheless, he was strong down the stretch this year, recording a 2.89 ERA over his last seven regular-season starts and a 2.29 ERA in three playoff starts, including a dazzling 7.1 shutout innings in the Division Series against the Red Sox.
Lackey is 2-5 with a 5.75 ERA in nine career regular-season starts in Boston, though he has also made some excellent starts in Fenway Park, most notably when he carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning in July 2008, and when he allowed two runs in seven innings in a no-decision in Game 4 of the ALDS. Of Lackey’s six most recent regular-season starts in Fenway Park (dating to the 2005 season), he has four quality starts.
One major-league executive of a club that has been involved in talks with Lackey’s agent, Steve Hilliard, was surprised by news of the physical. The source said that it would be unusual if Lackey signed with the Sox before his agent shopped the offer to other clubs that had expressed interest in the pitcher. At roughly noon today, no such offer had been shopped to the executive’s club. For that reason, there was at least some skepticism about whether or not an agreement is in place or close. (UPDATE at 3:02 p.m.: Yahoo! Sports is reporting that the Angels still believe that they are in the running for Lackey.)
That said, if the Sox had made a substantial offer in line with Lackey’s asking price, then a quick agreement could have been possible, and might have rendered it unnecessary for the agent to shop the deal to other interested clubs.
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