Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lackey signing makes Red Sox rotation scary

With two studs already in place at the top of their rotation in Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, the Boston Red Sox added a less spectacular but very consistent pitcher in former Angel John Lackey. Lackey spent 8 seasons in Anaheim and accumulated 102 wins, including a career-high 19 in 2007.

In the last five years, Lackey's lowest win total was 11 and his highest ERA was 3.83 (both last season). He has missed 15 starts over the past two seasons, but that didn't deter Boston from offering him a 5-year, $85 million contract (slightly more than the Yankees gave A.J. Burnett last offseason) to be their third starter.

With Clay Bucholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield still around to fill the final two rotation spots, the Red Sox will have great depth in case a starter or two goes down with an injury. And their three-man playoff rotation looks daunting: Beckett, Lester, Lackey and either Buchholz or Matsuzaka as their fourth starter.

They could also use that depth to make a trade for a bat, with names like Adrian Gonzalez being floated around in trade rumors. I find Gonzalez more intimidating in the middle of that lineup than Jason Bay, who is all but gone after being offered just a four-year contract by the Red Sox.

While the Red Sox playoff rotation shakes up nicely, making the playoffs out of the AL East won't be an easy task with the last two American League champions residing in the same division. And the inevitable loss of Bay, who was second the AL with 119 RBI and third with 36 home runs, will certainly weaken their lineup if they don't make a move.

But that lineup will not need to produce as many runs as it did last season with the upgrade in the rotation. And if Dice-K can return to his dominant (albeit wild) 2008 form, the Red Sox would likely lay claim to baseball's best pitching staff. With those starters and Jonathan Papelbon waiting in the ninth inning, the Red Sox will be a tough out in the postseason. If they can get there.

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