John Lackey is out for the entire season following Tommy John elbow surgery, but has advanced far enough in his recovery that he threw a 45-pitch bullpen session yesterday at Yankee Stadium.
And Bobby Valentine liked what he saw, telling Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston:
He threw with an ease of motion and with perfect location. I was very impressed with what I saw. He’s feeling really good about his progress. From what I remember the last time I saw him throwing and what I saw today, it looked like different people. He said it was a different effort, he was throwing through so much pain in the past.
Plenty of Red Sox fans were angry to learn that Lackey is merely allowed to hang out in the clubhouse while injured, so his rejoining the rotation next year may be a shock to everyone’s system, but he’s owed $15.25 million plus another $15.25 million in 2014.
He pitched horribly enough before undergoing surgery that Lackey likely won’t be handed a starting spot, but by the time spring training rolls around he’ll be about 17 months removed from surgery and should be fully recovered.
The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.
Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.
Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.