John Lackey needs a new home–at whatever cost.
And I don't say that just because he drank beer in the clubhouse, or even because he sometimes showed up his teammates on the field. He needs a new home because time after time, he just did not carry the mail in Boston.
This is clearly shown by his 6.41 ERA this year, the highest ERA in the history of the franchise for anyone who pitched 150 innings or more, and a whopping 34 percent worse than the league average.
There is also something to the argument that Lackey is the poster boy for the Red Sox failure this year, and if someone needs to be sacrificed on the altar of the baseball gods before good fortune returns to Fenway, well, then, Lackey should be that sacrifice.
In a WEEI (Boston) radio interview, Curt Schilling encapsulated the frustration Red Sox fans have with Lackey. Speaking of the possibility of starting next season with Lackey still in a Red Sox uniform, he said: "…can you imagine John Lackey jogging onto that field?… I'm saying, John is going to get a Yankee-like reception.''
During the September collapse, Lackey’s ERA was a preposterous 9.13. Even his 12 wins are misleading, because he won only one game all year when the Red Sox scored 5 or fewer runs. Batters hit .333 against him with two outs and runners in scoring position, and .364 in the seventh inning or later of close games.
In retrospect, it's easy to say that the Lackey signing was a huge mistake. However, at the time the deal was made, Red Sox fans were excited to have him. At the end of 2009, Lackey was one of the best pitchers in the American League.
From 2005 through 2009 with the Angels, he was 69-38 with a 3.49 ERA. That includes a great 2007 season, when he won 19 games with a league-leading 3.01 ERA. He made the All-Star team that year, and finished third in Cy Young Award balloting.
The point is that his career is not necessarily over; it's just over (or should be) in Boston. Get him out of Fenway, where his career ERA is 5.45, compared to 3.88 everywhere else and he might provide future value to another team. There have been reports that San Diego might consider taking him, where he would pitch half the time in the very spacious and forgiving PETCO Field.
Jim Ingraham of the Northern Ohio News Herald suggested the Indians could be a good fit for Lackey.
He points out that Lackey's ERA in six career starts at Progressive Field is 2.79, which is his lowest ERA in any ballpark where he has had more than three starts. Going to Cleveland would take him out of the brutal AL East, where he fared especially poorly.
Eleven of his 28 starts this year were against the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays. His ERA in those 11 starts was 7.39. If he joined the Tribe, he might face each AL East team once, but he could get close to 20 starts in the AL Central. Consider these career ERAs against: Detroit 4.01, Chicago 3.81, Minnesota 3.68 and Kansas City 3.36.
Some say there's no sense in trying to trade him; no one will pick up the salary. That may well be true, but if the Red Sox did a deal in which they packaged him with a player that the other team really wanted, something might get done. (Think of Mike Lowell coming to Boston as the throw-in on the Josh Beckett deal. How did that work out?)
Yes, they would have to pick up a large chunk of the $45.5 million left on his contract, but it may be time to acknowledge that Lackey coming to Boston was a mistake...for both parties.
Bottom line: Free up the roster spot. Cleanse the soul.
NOTE: On October 25, the Red Sox announced Lackey would undergo Tommy John surgery, which would cost him the 2012 season as well as part of 2013.