Is Lackey Worth It?

The Red Sox have supposedly inked John Lackey to a five-year, $85 million deal. Is he worth it? Well, that’s a tough question. From 2005–2007, Lackey was a dominant starting pitcher averaging 217 innings per year. But, during the past two seasons, he’s pitched well, but averaged about 170 innings a year thanks to injury. So, the first question is which pitcher will show up? The former, the latter, somewhere in between, or Carl Pavano (2005–2008).

And then we have a second question: what is he worth to the Red Sox. Most of the values I present are based on adding the player’s performance to an average team. There are increasing returns to winning (i.e., each win is worth more than the preceding win) and the Red Sox are a very good team, even after subtracting out Jason Bay. But, will the Red Sox remain this good during his entire contract? Overall, I expect his marginal value to the team will decline over the term of the contract, but the team will likely remain above average.

I have Lackey at $45 million at the low end and up to $115 million at the high end. Obviously, it’s probably best to assume he’s at neither extreme, so $85 million is in that big fat gooey middle. Not much of a projection here, but I’m not claiming anything spectacular. A guy like Lackey is hard to value. Given his injury history, I think it’s about the best that he could do.

I should add, that I have long been a Lackey fan, and I’m happy to see a guy who has been under-appreciated cash in on a nice deal.

2 Responses “Is Lackey Worth It?”

  1. I think this is the first time I’ve seen a salary range from you. Do you normally have a salary spread that wide or is Lackey a unique case?

  2. JC says:

    Good catch. Well, there is always a range, but Lackey is a particularly difficult case. As someone who hasn’t watched many Angels games this year, I’m not sure what to think of him. Add to this the uncertainty of what the Red Sox project to be over the next few years and that the Sox have a very good team and the range become much wider than I normally project.