The Red Sox seem to be finally waving the white flag on this disaster of a season, with starting pitcher Jon Lester and reliever Andrew Miller drawing the most interest, and a potential Matt Kemp-deal drawing the most headlines. However, another starting pitcher - John Lackey - is quietly one of their more attractive trade pieces. And as Gordon Edes of ESPN writes, the Royals are interested.
The Red Sox were once ridiculed for signing Lackey to a huge five-year $87 million deal, especially after his disastrous 2011 season that ended in Tommy John surgery. But Lackey has been a solid pitcher the last year and a half, posting a 2.8 rWAR in 2013 and 1.6 rWAR so far this year. Although Lackey is expensive this year with a $15.25 million salary for the entire season, the Tommy John surgery triggered an unusual clause that allows the club holding Lackey's rights to exercise an option for 2015 at the league minimum. This is why Lackey is so attractive.
The 35-year old right-hander is 11-7 this year with a a 3.60 ERA in 21 starts. He has struck out 7.6 per nine innings with just 2.1 walks per nine innings, right in line with his career numbers. In 12 Major League seasons, he has a 4.02 career ERA, slightly higher than his 3.88 career FIP.
I wrote yesterday about how it actually makes more sense for the Royals to pursue a starting pitcher rather than a hitter, particularly one that is signed for 2015. Lackey could be the front-of-the-rotation pitcher the Royals are looking for to replace James Shields next year, at a very attractive salary. However, due to that salary, the Red Sox are going to be very reluctant to deal him. To pry Lackey from Boston, the Royals are going to need to overwhelm the Red Sox with an offer they cannot refuse. With the Royals so reliant on prospects, and with Lackey's age and injury risk, this makes such a trade unlikely, despite his attractive salary.
The Royals are reportedly also interested in Boston left-handed reliever Andrew Miller. The 29-year old was originally the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Tigers, and the Royals admitted they were torn between him and Luke Hochevar for the #1 pick, with Dayton Moore choosing Hochevar due to health concerns from Miller. Miller flopped as a starting pitcher, but has resurrected his career as a lights-out left-handed reliever, with lefties hitting just .155/.210/.224 against him this year. Miller has a 2.45 ERA in 40 1/3 innings pitched, with 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Lefties have struck out over half the time they have faced him this year.
Miller earns about $800,000 the rest of the year and is a free agent this winter. The report also indicates the Royals are not in on Red Sox right-handed outfielder Jonny Gomes, despite earlier reports the Royals had interest.