Monday, November 9, 2009

Should the Brewers Sign John Lackey?

I'm skeptical, but Buster Olney is more optomisitic than I:
"Remember, it was only a year ago when Milwaukee offered CC Sabathia a $100 million deal, so the Brewers clearly are prepared to pay big dollars for a big-time starting pitcher. And they have a clear need: Even with rising star Yovani Gallardo anchoring the staff, Milwaukee ranked dead last in starters' ERA at 5.37 and 27th in rotation innings this past season.

The Brewers conceivably could enter into trade conversations for Vazquez or Halladay, but this course would be problematic. Milwaukee traded aggressively in 2007 and 2008, most notably for Sabathia, and this depleted its farm system. Trading a top young player for a one-year rental like Vazquez or Halladay might not make sense

It probably would make more sense for the Brewers to take a serious run at Lackey, who as a free agent would not cost them talent in trade. He would take pressure off Gallardo and fit their team culture.

The Brewers also could easily structure a Lackey deal to fit their payroll into the future. Jeff Suppan's contract will expire after next season, and the only real long-term obligation the Brewers have set in stone is to young slugger Ryan Braun, who is signed through the 2015 season. Milwaukee just reduced salary obligations by trading J.J. Hardy to the Twins and replacing Mike Cameron (who made $10 million last season) with Carlos Gomez."
There's no doubt that if the Brewers add Lackey, then this team would become one of the favorites in the NL Central. A rotation led by Lackey and Yovani Gallardo would be one of the best 1-2 combos in baseball.

But before getting all giddy at the thought of Lackey joining the Brewers, ask yourself this: should a team with a $80 million dollar payroll commit more than 15% of their total payroll for the next 4-6 years to a 31 year old starting pitcher for with a history of arm problems? That doesn't seem like a risk that I would be willing to take.

Furthermore, if the Brewers sign Lackey, that would just about eliminate the possibility of the Brewers retaining Prince Fielder long term. Fielder is certain to command a contract worth $15-$20 million dollars annually, which would make it almost impossible for the Brewers to retain him, unless they felt comfortable spending between 40-50% of their total payroll on two players. At this stage in the game, are the Brewers prepared to give themselves no chance to resign Fielder?

Of course, if the Brewers plan on trading Fielder, then they could conceivably sign Lackey and not have to worry about a possible payroll logjam. But once again, ask yourself, is John Lackey worth the risk for the Brewers?

I understand that the Brewers need to take advantage of the limited window they have right now to compete, but Lackey is too expensive, requires too much of a commitment, restricts their payroll flexibility, and ultimately, is not worth the risk for the Brewers, who unfortunately do not have an exorbitant payroll.


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