Jon Lester may have spilled the beans on John Lackey‘s post-2017 plans.
Last night the Chicago Cubs clinched the NL Central, and during the postgame celebration Lester had this to say about his teammate:
“He’s one of the best teammates, one of the best people, I’ve ever got to play with. Tonight was probably his last regular-season start. Here’s to one hell of a career!”
Except, of course, Lackey has made no such announcement about his career. When asked about Lester’s comments, he said he’d talk to his teammates on the bus.
Lackey, 38, will be a free agent at the end of this season, as his two-year $32 million deal with the Cubs expires. In 2017 he was 12-11 with a 4.56 ERA (ERA+ 95) with a K/BB ratio of 148/53 in 169.2 innings across 30 starts. He leads the NL in home runs allowed with 36. Overall he’s pitched in 15 seasons, winning 188 games. He has three World Series rings already by virtue of his service with the 2002 Angels, 2013 Red Sox and 2016 Cubs.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.