A lot of folks consider it to be a forgone conclusion that the St. Louis Cardinals will close the door behind starting pitcher John Lackey now that they’ve picked up the option on fellow hurler Jaime Garcia’s contract.
But I think the opposite is true. At least it should be.
Sure, the Birds have nearly enough bodies to fill two starting rotations with holdovers Garcia, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez plus returning ace Adam Wainwright and emerging starters Tyler Lyons, Tim Cooney and Marco Gonzalez. Then there is budding prospect Alex Reyes who could end up in St. Louis before the 2016 season is over.
So why would the team be interested in signing Lackey?
Aside from the fact the club already has a lot of pitching, why wouldn’t it?”
As the saying goes, you can never have TOO MUCH pitching.
No. I don’t expect the Cardinals to offer Lackey the three-year deal for $45-$60 million he is said to covet. But I do think the team would be foolish not to offer lackey a one-year tender.
Chances are incredibly slim he’d accept a one-year deal to play in the $15 million pay range. If he rejected the offer, the Cardinals would likely net a high draft pick from the team that eventually signs Lackey.
The Chicago Cubs have been rumored to be interested in Lackey who is close with their high-dollar starter Jon Lester. So the Cardinals would be wise not to let Chicago fix its biggest, glaring hole -- a shallow starting rotation -- by simply writing a check.
The Wee Bears have rebuilt their team through the draft. So taking a draft pick out of their hands wouldn’t only hinder their efforts, it might very well dissuade them from signing Lackey at all.
Linking a draft pick to a player has had a chilling effect on the market in recent years. I’d think the appeal of signing a guy in his mid to late 30s to a shorter-term deal would offer less incentive to give up the pick than the potential of landing a player Zack Grienke, Johnny Cueto or Jordan Zimmerman with a contract that would keep him tied to your team for a long time.
Let the Cubs tie up a pile of money in a deal with one of those guys.
But what if Lackey accepted the offer?
Great! In a world where starting pitchers of any note command $150 million contracts or more, who wouldn’t want to have a veteran, mid to front of the rotation hurler for a short term commitment?
If the Cardinals simply don’t have room for Lackey they could trade him to a dozen teams that would love to have him. Or they could trade Garcia or another starter like Lance Lynn in effort to try to add some thump to the offense or add a piece to the bullpen.
Really, tendering lackey is a no-lose situation for the Cardinals. He’s too valuable to let go for free. But if the team tenders an offer, the Birds can get yet another payout from the trade for Lackey without paying big bucks for a risky, multi-year contract.
If they’re lucky, they might just do damage to a division competitor in the process.