Since signing a four year, 40 million dollar contract with the Cubs after the 2006 season, Ted Lilly has been surprisingly good. Lilly was an all-star in 2009 and has a 3.70 ERA and 44 wins in three seasons with the Cubs.
Lilly will be a free agent after the 2010 season and on paper, Lilly is one of the best free agent starting pitchers out there. Lilly needs to put up big numbers once again in 2010 if he wants to land yet another big contract. But in order for Lilly to get another fat paycheck, he needs to be healthy. And luckily for Lilly, it looks like the Cubs are willing to be cautious with him, who is coming off shoulder surgery:
Media reports have circulated that Lilly won't return until late April or early May.
"I talked to Mark O'Neil [trainer] last week, and he said he is coming along fine," Hendry said. "If he starts April 15 that will be fine. I don't see it being anything unless there is some kind of setback that happens in camp. It was a real minor procedure. In fairness to Ted, we're not going to rush him either. If he's 95 percent on Opening Day then we will wait until he is 100 percent."
If Lilly misses a few weeks because of the injury, I doubt that will have a major impact on his earning potential. As long as Lilly makes 25-30 starts, shows he's healthy, and performs like he has over the past three seasons, there is no reason to think that Lilly won't be one of the most sought after free agent starting pitchers.
I'm sure interested teams will do a thorough evaluation of Lilly's shoulder, but at 34-years-old, it's not out of the realm of possibility to think that Lilly has another 3-4 solid seasons left.