John Lackey intends to honor contract and pitch at major league minimum salary in 2015

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The Cardinals acquired right-hander John Lackey from the Red Sox yesterday in exchange for outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig and right-hander Joe Kelly. While they paid a premium in order to land him, it’s impossible to look at this deal without taking Lackey’s contract into account.

When the Red Sox signed Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million contract in December of 2009, they put a clause into the deal which specified that a club option for 2015 at the major league minimum salary ($500,000) would be added if he missed significant time with an elbow injury. That option was triggered after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011.

There’s been some speculation that Lackey would retire rather than play at the major league minimum next year or perhaps try to negotiate his deal, but he told reporters upon his arrival in St. Louis today that he intends to honor his contract.

Since his return from Tommy John surgery, Lackey has posted a 3.55 ERA over 50 starts while averaging 7.6 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. Now you can see why the Cardinals paid a big price with Craig and Kelly. Not only did they acquire a good pitcher, they got a tremendous value.

Ian Kinsler lists the five toughest pitchers in the AL Central

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Every now and then, The Players’ Tribune runs a “five toughest” feature. In 2015, David Ortiz listed the five toughest pitchers he ever faced. Last month, Christian Yelich wrote up the five toughest pitchers in the NL East. Now, it’s Ian Kinsler‘s turn with the five toughest pitchers in the AL Central.

Kinsler goes into detail explaining why each pitcher is difficult to face, so hop over to The Players’ Tribune for his reasoning. His list

Presumably, Kinsler intentionally omitted his Tiger teammates from the list. He has faced Justin Verlander a fair amount earlier in his career, and he has only a .176/.333/.235 batting line in 42 plate appearances against the right-hander. Verlander’s stuff is often described as tough to hit in one phrase or another. Kinsler has also struggled against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco (.590 OPS), but one can understand why he would be omitted from a list of five given who was already listed.

Angels demote C.J. Cron to Triple-A

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Angels first baseman C.J. Cron hit a grand slam against the Mets on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to keep his spot on the major league roster as the club announced his demotion to Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday. Infielder Nolan Fantana has been promoted from Salt Lake.

Cron, 27, was hitting a disappointing .232/.281/.305 with one home run and RBI in 90 plate appearances. I guess you can say that wasn’t the kind of Cron job the Angels were expecting. Cron was an above-average hitter in each of his first three seasons, finishing with an OPS+, or adjusted OPS, of 111, 106, and 115 (100 is average).

While Cron is figuring things out in the minors, Luis Valbuena, Jefry Marte, and Albert Pujols could each see some time at first base.