Last week, the Mets made it clear that getting a starting pitcher would be a “top priority”, and that “money would not be an object” as they seek to put a “championship caliber team” on the field in 2010.
Both Jeff Wilpon and Omar Minaya specifically said that the Mets needed another starting pitcher when asked about the teams most pressing need.
As most readers of this site know, the Angel’s John Lackey could be the best available starting pitcher on the market. The addition of Scott Kazmir coupled with some of the whispers from the front office, make it increasingly likely that the Angels have no intention of retaining Lackey after their season ends.
Lackey is a solid pitcher who would easily fit right into the number two slot for the New York Mets behind their ace Johan Santana. I don’t think any Mets fan will have a problem with adding John Lackey, however it is important to note that Lackey does come with some baggage.
To begin, the 31-year old Lackey isn’t your prototypical ace, but he may very well get paid like one this winter. After spending a month and a half on the disabled list with a strained elbow, Lackey finished with an 11-8 record and a 3.83 ERA.
He has failed to make 30 starts or pitch more than 180 innings in the last two seasons, and his ERA has gradually increased as well. His career ERA is 3.81 and his WHIP stands at 1.31. Good, but not great.
I do love his bulldog mentality, but he may be a lot like Billy Wagner in that “he likes to speak his mind, even if it means taking swipes at teammates”, according to a story in the Daily News.
How much money Lackey will command this winter is tough to determine at this point. Realistically, he could be looking at five year deal worth about $80 million dollars. But when you consider the lack of other quality free agent options, coupled with the number of teams who will be in the market for a top of the rotation starter, it could make for a wide scale bidding war which could mean a sixth year for Lackey and an annual average close to $17-$18 million dollars.
Last year, the Mets didn’t have the stomach for a bidding war and they passed on Derek Lowe and signed Oliver Perez instead.
Honestly, given Lackey’s age and health risks, a 5 year/$80 MM contract would come with a lot of risk. Going beyond that gives me chills down my spine. That said, I certainly do believe that the winner of the John Lackey sweepstakes will end up seriously overpaying for his services and end up getting saddled with a potentially bad contract that would make the Yankees Carl Pavano deal look like a drop in the bucket.
I’d rather trade for a healthier Roy Halladay who actually is a bona fide ace and wouldn’t pose nearly the risk that Lackey does. I’m sure teams like the Yankees, Dodgers and Angels are thinking the same thing. Trading for Halladay and giving him a fat extension ala Johan Santana, might be the best move of the off season if you’re looking for a quality pitcher this winter.