I'm still somewhat concerned about John Lackey's intentions.
The St. Louis Cardinals starter was asked after the season if he still planned to honor the team option in his contract that calls for him to play the 2015 season for the sum of $500,000, a pay cut of $14.75 million from what he made for the just-concluded season. His answer: "I have every intention."
Sounds pretty positive on its face. But it always sends up a red flag when a yes or no question is answered with anything besides yes or no.
The only reason to do that is to give yourself wiggle room for when you reveal your true intentions later.
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I'm sure when Lackey signed his five-year, $82.5 million pact with the Boston Red Sox in 2009 that he was thinking of the big, guaranteed dollars that were ahead of him. He wasn't concerned when the Sox mentioned that, because of his history of arm troubles, that they put in a clause that recovered a potential season lost to arm injury. To make up for a year when Lackey was idled while making big bucks, he agreed to play a make-up year for relative peanuts.
The problem is, Lackey made that promise to the Red Sox and he doesn't play for them anymore. He turns 36 on Thursday and knows that the 2015 season could be his last chance to sign a big money deal. If he can't have big money, maybe he'll decide he might as well pack it in and go home.
The Cardinals have everything to gain from the contract they acquired in a swap that sent Allen Craig and Joe Kelly to Beantown. I can see where it would be tough for a guy who made $500,000 a paycheck to swallow his pride and take $500,000 a year. Especially when the guys around him are all pulling down big checks.
This decision is a big deal for the Redbirds because Lackey could be a significant part of the starting rotation in 2015. If he doesn't play -- or if he holds out for a raise -- it could have a ripple effect on all of St. Louis' off-season plans.
The Cardinals seem likely to make at least one significant trade this winter because they have so many young pitchers and outfielders that there doesn't seem room to keep them all. But their hands are tied on such a deal until they know for sure about Lackey's intentions.
I hope he sticks around. I'd like to see the Cardinals have him around during the regular season to give the club a good chance to win every day of the regular season -- and to give them a lot of quality depth in the rotation for potential playoff battles.