It has been mentioned over and over the last several weeks, but the Angels have some tough free agent decisions to make this off-season. Fortunately, MonkeyWithAHalo.com is here to help figure this mess out with a little help from our old friends Good and Evil. First up for debate is whether or not to keep John Lackey:
Good: For all the issues the Angel rotation had this year, they simply must shore up their starting rotation. The only way they can do that is by bringing in the best pitcher on the free agent market and that player is John Lackey. I know he isn’t in the same class as Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia or Tim Lincecum as far as being a dominating type of pitcher, but he is very, very good and always gives his team a chance to win. Top starting pitching is hard to come by, so while he may not be amongst the elite of the league, Lackey is close and they could quickly come to regret letting him get away.
Lackey has the look of an ace, but does he have the talent?
Bad: It also doesn’t meant that the Angels should break their payroll structure to keep him. This isn’t a simple matter of the Angels wanting to keep Lackey, it is a matter of affording him. Big John is going to command a top dollar contract, possibly as much as $20 million per year. That is a whole lot of cash to cough up for a guy who, as you said, isn’t really an elite pitcher in the league. The Halos aren’t the Yankees and need to think through how they spend their money and there are real repercussions to having one player making that much money for the next several years and I am not sold that Lackey is worth it. Yes, the Angels need an ace, but that is why they gambled on Scott Kazmir who has better stuff than Big John but not the same track record. Lackey is better than Kaz, but is he $12 million per year better? I highly doubt it.
Good: I like Kazmir and think he can be great, but he didn’t get the job done in the post-season whereas John Lackey did. That is what they really need Lackey for, to be their horse for the playoffs. The Angel rotation has enough depth to get through the regular season just fine, we have seen that, the post-season is the real problem. Staff aces need to not only be consistently dominant but also be able to go deep into games. Kazmir can’t do that even when he is mowing people down, he can’t help but run up his pitch count and he certainly isn’t as consistent as John Lackey.
Bad: You want to talk consistency, OK, let’s do that. The only thing Lackey has consistently done lately is shown that he is starting to break down. Two seasons in a row he has started the year off on the disabled list, probably because he thinks he is so damn tough that he needs throw 120 pitches per game. Do you really want to spend $100 million on some mouth breathing redneck that could very well be starting to breakdown physically.
$100 million for a guy who can’t close his mouth when he breathes? I think not.
Good: It is risky, I agree, but is it not equally as risky for the Angels to let him walk away? Who will they replace him with in the rotation? Finding that fifth starter last year was a constant point of contention for the Angels and they would be inviting that same problem all over again. They are either going to have to spend money on lesser pitchers than Lackey or money on more talented pitchers (i.e. Rich Harden) who are even bigger injury risks or hand a rotation spot to one of the rookies who already proved they aren’t really ready for prime time last season.
Bad: You aren’t looking at the big picture, goody two shoes. The Halos have roughly $30 million in available cash this off-season and have to consider re-signing Figgins, Abreu, Guerrero and Oliver, not to mention finding some sort of way to shore up their crappy bullpen. Do you really want to basically blow the Angels entire wad on one guy and let the rest of the team fall to crap? No, I didn’t think so. This team has more holes than they care to admit and ignoring them just to retain one player seems pretty stupid to me.
Good: But the Angels must also be careful of creating new holes in the process. There is already the aforementioned rotation spot, but how about the leadership vacuum it would create? Big John is brash and confident, two traits the other Angel pitchers would do well to replicate.
Bad: Yeah, who wouldn’t want to mimic a guy who routinely screams at his fielders whenever they make an error and then occasionally calls them out in the media again afterward just to make sure he got his point across. I can’t wait to have five of those guys. Frankly, I think you really need to consider how much the Halos really want that kind of a personality around so many young and impressionable pitchers.
Aces are supposed to constantly bitch out their teammates, right?
Good: Do we not owe Lackey a little something for what he has done for this club? Let us not forget Game 7 in 2002 not to mention all the fantastic work he has done for the team the last several years. The Angels have run off a lot of their veterans in recent years, that isn’t how classy organizations function and the Angels should be classier than that.
Bad: Screw being loyal and classy and screw John Lackey, he had his chance to re-sign with the Angels before the season when they offered him a fair contract extension. If he wants to go mercenary, then that is his call. He can enjoy toiling away with K-Rod on the craptastic Mets or going home to the Texas Rangers where he can see if the extra millions of bucks is worth watching his team finish behind the Angels each and ever year.