The Red Sox have been swarmed by trade rumors throughout the past few weeks and days, the majority of which have surrounded either Jon Lester or Andrew Miller (or both). However, a new name has entered the mix and that’s another Red Sox pitcher in veteran right-hander John Lackey.
A recent report indicated that the Red Sox were being “hit hard on Lester and Lackey,” and the option of trading Lackey could represent an attractive one for Red Sox brass. While dealing Lester would rid the team of a top-flight pitcher and potentially inhibit his desire to return to Boston (though he would also bring a huge trade return to the Red Sox), Lackey would represent less of a blockbuster move– it likely would not significantly alter the path of the Red Sox franchise– but still bring a large trade return.
Lackey is having his second consecutive solid season since returning from Tommy John Surgery, posting a 3.60 ERA (supported well by a 3.56 FIP) to go with a 7.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 21 starts for the Red Sox. He doesn’t bring the ace potential that Lester would provide for a team but he still could slot into the middle of a playoff contender’s rotation with ease. In fact, Lackey could likely even fill the #2 starter’s mold for a National League team as pitching in Fenway Park and the AL East does not exactly help his still-strong ERA.
However, in addition to his strong pitching, Lackey brings a unique contract status to whichever team may acquire him. When signing his 5 year/$82.5M contract with the Red Sox back in December of 2009, the team built in a contract clause stating that if Lackey missed significant time with any elbow injury, the team would build an additional year into his contract for the league minimum. Of course, Lackey underwent Tommy John Surgery after the 2011 season, representing the epitome of “missing significant time with an elbow injury,” and so Lackey’s contract will be tendered at the league minimum for 2015 barring an extension.
This means that Lackey could be attractive to both high-profile, big-market teams and smaller-market contenders. Similarly to Lester, the Red Sox should aim to keep Lackey for the hopefully-contending 2015 team, but if a team makes a crazy offer then the Red Sox would be fools not to accept it. Thus far, the Dodgers and Royals have specifically expressed interest in Lackey but many other teams are certainly involved behind the scenes. In other words, definitely don’t be surprised to see Lackey in another uniform before long.