The business of baseball can throw a serious wrench in things for teams that think they have a good thing going. The Boston Red Sox might face that unfortunate reality with their pitching staff this off-season.
Already facing the prospect of losing starting pitchers Jon Lester and Jake Peavy to free agency, the Red Sox might also lose veteran right-handed starter John Lackey. The 36-year-old, who has enjoyed a renaissance the last couple seasons, might be lost for a different reason though: he can retire rather than allow the Red Sox to exercise a team-friendly club option for next season.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports:
Lackey, though, holds his own leverage.
He can retire at 36 rather than play at the minimum salary. And after earning more than $108 million in his career, Lackey wouldn’t have much incentive to play for relative pennies.
I guess love of the game isn’t part of this conversation.
Rosenthal also proposes a solution so that the Red Sox can plan ahead and not lose Lackey:
The obvious solution is a two-year extension — one that Lackey genuinely deserves, considering that since returning from his surgery he has a 3.41 ERA in 42 regular-season starts, not to mention a 2.77 ERA in four postseason starts last season.
Through 13 starts this season Lackey is 7-4 with a 3.18 ERA and a 7.8 K/9. His average fastball velocity has been sitting at around 92 MPH, the same mark as the rest of his career. He is showing no signs of aging and no signs of the Tommy John operation in 2011 that created that team option in the first place.
With his results this season, it is hard to imagine Lackey retiring at season’s end, but it remains an option as long as it is his leverage to get a better deal.