John Lackey Tommy John Surgery: 6 Ways This Impacts Boston Red Sox

Ben Shapiro@benshapironyc1 Analyst IIIOctober 26, 2011

John Lackey Tommy John Surgery: 6 Ways This Impacts Boston Red Sox

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    On a day in which the General Manager position of the Boston Red Sox publicly changed hands, the new general manager Ben Cherington immediately had to deal with an issue the old general manager had likely grown tired of: John Lackey

    That's because among the most notable things disclosed in Cherington's introductory press conference was that John Lackey would miss the entire 2012 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, which he has yet to undergo but does in fact need. 

    The same John Lackey who was bad in his first season with the Red Sox. 

    The same John Lackey who was even worse this past season. John Lackey won't be on the mound until April 2013. Is that good? Is that bad? What does it mean? 

He's Not Going Anywhere

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    No John Lackey next season. That's almost assured to make many Red Sox fans smile. He's not getting traded though, he's not getting released or cut or sent down to on some sort of minor league assignment.

    He'll spend the whole season on the disabled list. He'll have a spot on the 40-man roster and he'll get paid every cent of the $16 million he's owed for 2012. 

    There was lots of talk radio and rumor mill-type chatter in the aftermath of the September collapse about the litany of ways the Red Sox could rid themselves of John Lackey's bloated contract. 

    There was the Vernon Wells swap, the Barry Zito swap. Then there was the "make the Cubs take Lackey's contract as part of the package for Theo" chatter. 

    Not only are none of those things going to happen, but now that teams know he's on the shelf for all of the 2012 season, there's no chance whatsoever that he's not on the Red Sox roster next year. 

    The Red Sox aren't going to release him, folks. It's not going to happen. The Sox aren't going to pay a player $16 million and then let him walk away from the team.

    In addition, no team under any circumstances is going to make a deal for player who won't be ready to play until April 2013. Not with that contract. 

    You don't have to like him, but John Lackey is going to be a member of the Red Sox for the foreseeable future. 

The 2012 Red Sox Need Two Starting Pitchers

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    The starting five for the 2012 Red Sox? Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and two people that have never been in my kitchen. 

    No Lackey and no Dice-K. I know what Red Sox fans are thinking. " We're better off without those bums!" " That's two fewer losses every five days."

    As someone who never really looked forward to Lackey's starts and who absolutely dreaded Dice-K starts for years (it's true, and numerous family members and close friends would confirm this), I see where you're coming from. 

    I'm all for letting pitchers throw more pitches, but the Red Sox are going to need more than three starters next season and the current list of candidates for the two open rotation spots is as follows:

    Andrew Miller

    Tim Wakefield

    Kyle Weiland 

    Alfredo Aceves

    Felix Doubront

    If that doesn't cause a surge in optimism then there's a reason for that. Those aren't very good pitchers.

    I'll concede that Aceves is intriguing, and, of course, Miller was at one time a big-time prospect. He's not any more, though, and he's earned that downgrading of his projected ceiling. Weiland was dreadful down the stretch this past season, and Wakefield's best days are behind him.  

    The upcoming free agent market is thin as far as starting pitchers go. Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay aren't just going to fall into Boston's lap via some sort of pipe dream trade.

    The Red Sox needed starting pitching before Lackey's injury. They're going to need it even more now. 

Lackey May Have Been a Decent Guy in the Clubhouse

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    By now, we all know just how bad John Lackey was not just on the mound, but behind the scenes in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse this past season.

    After all, numerous unnamed anonymous sources have all said so. That makes it a pretty open and shut case, correct? I don't doubt that there was some drinking or chicken eating in the clubhouse. I doubt it really had that big an impact, but I don't doubt it happened.

    One thing that players do respond positively to is toughness and if the reports and statements from incoming Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington are to be believed then Lackey had been pitching with discomfort in his arm for much of the season.

    "John Lackey pitched through circumstances this year that I don't think any of us can fully understand, and he got beat up for it a little bit," Cherington said. "This guy was dealing with stuff both on the field and off the field that were very difficult, and he showed tremendous toughness pitching through that."-

    If fellow teammates knew that Lackey was going through severe problems emotionally as well as physically, it's entirely possible that he earned more, not less, of their respect this past season in spite of his terrible performances.

    This doesn't excuse what appeared to be his visible disdain for his teammates and his manager when there were errors while he was on the mound or when Tito would emerge from the dugout to remove him.

    It may, however, explain why we've yet to hear one member of the Red Sox team rip Lackey for any of these perceived slights.  

The Red Sox Will Find out About Felix Dubront

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    Of all the potential starting pitching candidates in the Red Sox system, the one that elicits the most curiosity is Felix Doubront. 

    Dourbont, a lanky 24-year-old lefty, probably isn't a future ace or No. 1 type of starter, but he could be a solid option to trot out to the mound every five days. Then again, maybe he isn't? 

    Doubront doesn't have great major league numbers, but he's only started three games. His minor league numbers aren't going to wow you, but they do show some potential. Doubront would have gotten a more extensive look this past season, but he labored through a number of injuries. 

    He should be healthy at the start of next season, and he'd be an odds on favorite to grab an open rotation spot barring two major free-agent starting pitcher acquisitions. 

    Maybe he's the next Ivan Nova? Or maybe he's just another one of those AAAA type of pitchers. A guy who makes an impact in the highest minor league levels but is hard pressed to find a niche at the big league level. One way or another, the Red Sox seem poised to find out in 2012.  

The Sox Can't Spend That Big This Offseason

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    Lackey's injury doesn't just negate the ability of the Red Sox to shed his contract in this offseason. It also means that he's not going be dealt in the next one, either. No team will touch him until they see how he fares in the aftermath of his surgery.

    Lackey won't see live baseball action until April 2013. That means that he won't reestablish trade value until May or June of 2013 at the earliest. 

    So the Red Sox now know for sure that they are basically saddled with Lackey's deal for nearly the entire duration of it.

    With that knowledge, they probably also know that they now must be somewhat judicious in how they go about spending money on other free agents,not just in this offseason but in all likelihood the next one as well. 

    That doesn't mean that they won't make a bid on a guy like C.C. Sabathia, but it might mean that they steer clear of the majority of big-name free agents on the market. It may even impact the following year's free-agent decisions.

    While this season's market is loaded at first base, a position the Sox are set at, next season's features a very strong class of both outfielders and starting pitchers. A few names to ponder:

    Josh Hamilton

    Matt Kemp

    BJ Upton

    Andre Ethier

    Matt Cain

    Cole Hamels

    John Danks

    Zack Greinke

    Francisco Liriano 

    That's just a smattering, and there are plenty of other players who will be available, too. This offseason may have to be somewhat uneventful as far as free agency goes for the Red Sox. That may be a sign that they are positioning themselves for a more eventful one next season, though. 

"Addition by Subtraction?" We're Going to Find Out

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    Was John Lackey as bad an influence as all those anonymous sources said he was? If he was, then next season should be one of improved clubhouse harmony, as well as better years from guys like Beckett and Lester.

    After all, with no John Lackey around to steer them in the wrong direction and rally the guys for chicken and beers, everything should be hunky-dory, right? 

    Well, we're going to see about that as well. The odds are that the Red Sox were going to have a more harmonious year next season regardless of whether John Lackey was present. Now we will at least get to see what the clubhouse looks like sans John Montague Lackey. 

    It could be better because of his absence, it could be worse, or it could be better regardless of his absence. One thing is for sure: if there are issues next year we already know whom not to blame.