Red Sox welcome Lackey, Cameron
Club's latest acquisitions introduced at Fenway Park
BOSTON -- They played a December doubleheader at Fenway Park on Wednesday, though this one was of the Hot Stove variety. After a hectic couple of days, general manager Theo Epstein -- joined by manager Terry Francona -- unveiled two significant free-agent acquisitions.
Veteran outfielder Mike Cameron had his meet-and-greet -- and the obligatory pose with his No. 23 Red Sox jersey -- in the late morning. Then, shortly after lunchtime, it was upper-echelon righty John Lackey's turn to express his views on landing in Boston, and to don the No. 40 he will wear in 2010 and beyond.
For Epstein, those two moves don't finish his winter. But they put a significant dent in his to-do list. With these two moves, the Red Sox have a vastly improved starting rotation, better defense in the outfield and more roster flexibility.
"I think if you look on paper, we'll put our starting five right up there with anybody's," said Epstein. "I think our run prevention overall is going to be really solid. We like our lineup. This puts us in a position to have some flexibility if we need to make a move down the road to add some offense."
With added depth on the mound and in the rotation, Epstein will seemingly be in better position to land a blockbuster bat such as Adrian Gonzalez, be it this winter or prior to the July 31 Trade Deadline.
But this day was about Lackey, who signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal, and Cameron, who agreed to a two-year, $15.5 million pact.
"Obviously I've been here for some big games and really competed against these guys quite a bit," said Lackey. "I'm here to win. That's the bottom line. I've always had a lot of respect for this organization from the other side. Winning is the biggest thing for me and I know this organization has a great chance to do that, and hopefully I can help out."
Lackey had the chance to win it all as a rookie. In fact, he defeated the Giants in Game 7 of that 2002 World Series. He hopes to get that taste again now that he is in Boston. And the well-traveled Cameron, who turns 37 in January? That's what he is here for.
"Why did I choose Boston? Because I felt like I played in a large market before, and I understand the values and the hard work you have to put in because you can be very scrutinized at times," said Cameron. "At the same time, the opportunity to really win a championship. I've pretty much gotten to the end of the road so many times and so close, but nothing to show for it. With the addition of Lackey and the guys that are already here being through it a couple of times, I just feel like the opportunity is pretty good for me to come out and compete and try to do some big things."
Lackey will join Jon Lester and Josh Beckett in what could be a dominant big three. Though the Red Sox have yet to decide if Cameron will play center or left -- or perhaps both -- he will take many of the at-bats left by free agent Jason Bay and try to replace much of the production.
Both players seemed ecstatic to land in Boston. After years of fierce competition against the Red Sox, both in the regular season and the postseason, Lackey has now climbed on board, officially ending his eight-year tenure with the Angels.
|"Winning was definitely my first priority of a team to go to. ... I know I'm going to have a chance to win here, and that means a lot."|
|-- John Lackey|
Not only does Francona have three pitchers worth of a nod on Opening Day, but he has three who have won the clinching game of a World Series.
"I think it's going to make us all a lot smarter," quipped Francona. "Every time Theo asked me a question during the Winter Meetings, I would always say '[Get] a pitcher.' And now we have a chance to run out a really solid pitcher every day. It's very exciting. And again, it's on paper right now, but it'll be our responsibility to go down to Spring Training and make it all work. But it's very exciting."
That word -- excitement or other tenses of it -- kept popping up during the multiple pressers at Fenway.
"We're very excited today to announce the signing of Mike Cameron to a two-year contract," said Epstein. "I think Mike is a big part of our offseason puzzle. He's a huge addition to this ballclub and this organization."
The Red Sox weren't proclaiming themselves as the favorites to win the 2010 World Series, but they could sense a sudden surge in winter momentum.
The Lackey move is particularly significant, in that it gives Boston what could arguably be the most formidable starting pitching trio in the American League. In addition to the front three, the Sox also have a blossoming Clay Buchholz, right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka and veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.
The contract is the largest given to any free agent during Epstein's seven years at the helm. It also marks the only time Boston has given a five-year contract to a free-agent starting pitcher, with the exception of Matsuzaka. But Matsuzaka's case was different because the Red Sox needed to submit a blind posting bid of $51.1 million to the Seibu Lions just to earn negotiating rights.
Why such a lengthy commitment in Lackey? Once Epstein came to the realization that the club was not going to find common ground with Bay, he decided that re-allocating the payroll to bring in another stud pitcher -- even if it took a five-year deal -- was his best move for the present and future.
"Well, it wasn't easy," Epstein said. "A lot of discussion went into it. When you draw up clubs in theory, if you look to build the 2010 Red Sox in a vacuum or design your five-year plan, you can do it a certain way. You can adhere to every element of your personal philosophy. When you've made the playoffs six out of seven years, you're looking a couple of years ahead as what you see as a really good young team, you can find a way to make it work in the meantime.
"When you operate in the real world, with imperfections, you have to make choices. The more you looked at it, the more we talked to different agents, and the more we assessed what both the best fit was for now and for the future, which is all I've ever talked about since I've been here, no matter what words I've used, I've talked about being competitive now and in the future, this was clearly the best way for us to go."
Cameron, who hit .250 with 24 homers and 70 RBIs in 2009 for the Brewers, is a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, most recently in 2006. He doesn't think that people should look at his birth certificate to make assumptions of where he is as a player.
"I still feel that I'm able to move around pretty good and I played probably one of the better center fields this year that I've played in a long time," Cameron said. "I'm not knocking the other years that I've played, because I try to play it well every year and that's just a part of who I am. It's part of trying to go out and do the craft to the best of my ability to help the team defensively and definitely put a sense of calm in the pitchers."
In 1,829 Major League games, Cameron has a .250 average with 265 homers, 926 RBIs and a .340 on-base percentage. He has played for the White Sox, Reds, Mariners, Mets, Padres and Brewers. He has hit 20-plus homers eight times.
|"I haven't really been this excited about coming somewhere since I first came to the big leagues."|
|-- Mike Cameron|
"I was always interested in coming here," Lackey said. "Winning was definitely my first priority of a team to go to. With this franchise and their history and the way I've seen from the other side of the field -- I've been knocked out of the playoffs a few times by them -- I know I'm going to have a chance to win here, and that means a lot."
For his career, Lackey is 102-71 with a 3.81 ERA. He has pitched in 234 games, all but one of them starts. Lackey's best season was 2007, when he went 19-9 with a 3.01 ERA and made the AL All-Star team. In '09, Lackey went 11-8 with a 3.83 ERA in 27 starts. Lackey has pitched 14 times in the postseason, 12 of them starts, going 3-4 with a 4.12 ERA.
This was the first time Lackey has switched teams. For Cameron, who went from the White Sox to the Reds to the Mariners to the Mets to the Padres to the Brewers, it was yet another -- and perhaps -- final landing spot.
"It's a pretty special moment," Cameron said. "I haven't really been this excited about coming somewhere since I first came to the big leagues. This is one of those historical parks that you get to come to, so hopefully I'll put a couple of dents in the Monster."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.