The offseason isn’t quite over, but it would appear that John Lackey is the big starting pitching addition of the offseason (in addition to Adam Warren, perhaps). While not everyone was extremely excited to see the 37-year-old veteran as the final piece, many others – including myself – recognize that Lackey has had some solid success of late and believe he might be a good fit for this team.
More importantly, Lackey’s contract is extremely affordable and fits snugly into the increasingly obvious two-year window ahead (where the Cubs control Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester is still relatively young). In fact, his deal, on paper, looks borderline fantastic. And while you might be inclined to see two years and $32M as the most his market would offer, you’d be wrong.
It’s often difficult to find out how much was previously offered once a deal is struck, but if you recall, Tim Dierkes projected three years and $50M for Lackey, while Ken Davidoff guessed three years and $45 million.* We might never know how much Lackey actually forewent to sign with the Cubs, but maybe he did have a three-year offer out there. Given where the market for pitching went this offseason, it’s really not hard to imagine.
This video is a bit wacky, but in it Lackey explains how he came to a decision to join the Cubs, citing the lure of the championship and the constant badgering of David Ross and Jon Lester:
And, make no mistake, Lackey is still a good bet to perform over the next two seasons. Not only has he seemingly changed the way he pitches to accommodate for a post-Tommy-John career, but the ZiPS projections love him, too.
Over 183.0 innings in 2016, Lackey is projected by ZiPS to post a 3.34 ERA and 3.58 FIP, and net a very healthy 3.4 WAR. And ZiPS likes him, still, in 2017, too:
ZiPS has Lackey at 12-9, 3.34, 114 ERA+, 3.4 WAR and 12-9, 3.54, 107 ERA, 3.1 WAR next two years in Chicago.
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) December 5, 2015
If I could lock that in right now, I would. Not only would that performance be extremely useful, those results would make his contract extraordinarily valuable.
Age might catch up to Lackey and it might not. Not every pitcher is the same, and he’s not the first guy pitching at 37. With any luck, those will be his results over the next two years, and the Cubs were able to secure an affordable, productive number three.
*(The FanGraphs crowd-sourcing project had Lackey at two years and $30 million, by the way, so once again, the wisdom of crowds was pretty solid.)