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.

Nationals to reinstate Max Scherzer on Thursday

Max Scherzer
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Some good news for the Nationals today: All-Star hurler Max Scherzer is due back from the injured list this week, this time (hopefully) for good. He’s slated to start during Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates.

It’s been a long road back for the right-hander, who earned his seventh consecutive All-Star designation after heading into the break with a 2.30 ERA, 5.6 fWAR, and a league-leading 7.56 SO/BB rate. An untimely back injury forced him to the injured list in the days leading up to the All-Star Game, however, and he hasn’t returned in any kind of part-time or full-time capacity since.

While Scherzer was originally expected to pitch for the Nationals sometime during their weekend series versus the Brewers, manager Dave Martinez elected to push back his return date by a few days. It’s not clear whether he felt some lingering pain during his 64-pitch simulated start on Saturday or whether the Nationals simply want to play it safe with their ace, but either way, the club apparently feels like Scherzer will be back to full strength before the end of the week.

If so, his return would be a significant asset to the Nationals, who could use a sub-3.00 ERA, 5.0-fWAR starter to help bolster their standing in the NL East. Still, there’s no guarantee that the veteran righty is ready to shoulder a full-time role in Washington’s rotation, nor is it certain that he’ll be able to match his results from the first half of the season. In one start between IL stints last month, he dealt five innings of three-run, two-walk, eight-strikeout ball in an 8-7 loss to the Rockies.