Angels' Lackey seeking extension
Ace prepared to test free agency if deal not reached
TEMPE, Ariz. -- After his most recent outing on Tuesday in Peoria, Ariz., against the Padres, John Lackey said his camp was waiting to hear back from the Angels on a proposal submitted to management for a contract extension.Apparently, the response was underwhelming.
"They're not trying very hard," Lackey said on Friday, adding that he is not inclined to give any hometown discounts to the Angels and would be comfortable entering free agency next winter.Lackey has made it clear from the day he arrived in camp that he is keenly aware of where the market for premium starting pitchers has gone, having studied intently the signings of CC Sabathia (seven years, $161 million), A.J. Burnett (five years, $82.5 million) and Derek Lowe (four years, $60 million) over the winter. Lackey considers himself a cut above Burnett -- and the numbers support that belief -- so it generally is believed he's seeking at least what Burnett drew from the Yankees. The Angels have a history of not being sentimental with their veteran players. They waved goodbye this spring to Garret Anderson, the most productive offensive player in franchise history, record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez and starter Jon Garland. They went to eight years and $160 million in an effort to retain Mark Teixiera, only to lose the first baseman to the Yankees. How long and how high the Angels will go to keep Lackey in their employ remains to be seen. They have several dynamic young arms who could be ready to join the rotation as early as next season in Nick Adenhart, Anthony Ortega and Jordan Walden, and they're known to have an aversion to long-term commitments to pitchers as a general rule. Lackey, their ace, isn't the only high-profile pitcher on the staff who will be eligible for free agency after the season. Kelvim Escobar, making a remarkable comeback from shoulder surgery, could be in the rotation by May. Escobar also is in the final year of his contract, along with position players Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins and Robb Quinlan. Bobby Abreu signed a one-year deal and will also hit the open market. "We don't, as a policy, negotiate through the media," general manager Tony Reagins said in reference to the Lackey talks. "We'd like to keep John, and we'll do what we can. We've had ongoing discussions. That's about all I can say." Lackey, who turns 31 on Oct. 23, signed a three-year, $17 million contract in 2006 with a $10 million option for 2009 that the club exercised this winter. Lackey has a 91-63 career record in 206 starts, with a 3.81 ERA. He pitched and won a World Series Game 7 as a rookie, giving him the cache of a money pitcher that he has upheld -- even if it isn't reflected in his 2-3 record in 11 postseason games, nine as a starter. His 3.39 ERA more accurately mirrors the quality of his October work. Sabathia, who will be 29 on July 21, is 117-73 with a 3.66 career ERA in 254 starts. On the downside, comparatively, Sabathia has thrown 225 2/3 more innings than Lackey, despite being almost two years younger, and the big southpaw has struggled (2-3, 7.92 ERA) in five postseason outings. Burnett, who turned 32 on Jan. 3, is 87-76 with a 3.81 lifetime ERA in 211 starts. He has reached 200 innings in three seasons, one fewer than Lackey, and has no postseason profile. Lowe, who will be 36 on June 1, is 126-107 with 85 saves and a 3.75 career ERA. He has delivered in the postseason, helping Boston claim a World Series title in 2004 (going 3-0), and is 5-5 overall with a 3.33 postseason ERA.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.