SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — It’s becoming clear that the Cubs will have a starting pitching crunch in 2018 and beyond, with Jake Arrieta likely departing via free agency. This is a reason why they’ve imported a number of young pitchers (Alec Mills, Eddie Butler, Williams Perez, Casey Kelly) this spring, in an attempt to see what they’ve got, and will also be looking at guys already in the organization such as Rob Zastryzny, Jake Buchanan and Duane Underwood as possible rotation pieces going forward. (Underwood will start Friday against the White Sox.)
In the Tribune, Paul Sullivan argues that the team should consider extending John Lackey’s contract, even though he’ll be 39 before the 2018 season:
Lackey's conditioning program should keep him at a high level for at least another couple of years if he wants to keep pitching. [Manager Joe] Maddon said he doesn't need to make any concessions to Lackey's age besides watching his workload, and that could be lessened by Maddon's use of a "hybrid" sixth starter on occasion.
"Even though you know you're going to get resistance (from the five starters), if we're able to pull that off because we have the right guys to pull it off with, it might add something to these guys," Maddon said.
Lackey missed a bit of time at the end of the 2016 season with shoulder soreness and didn’t pitch as well in the postseason as he had in previous postseasons. He appears healthy this spring and is coming off a very good outing Monday against the Padres.
But if he has a solid 2017 season, would it be worth tacking one more year onto that deal to buy the team some time in identifying and finding more starters?
I’m kind of agnostic on this. I can see good reasons both for giving Lackey another year, and for thanking him and letting him go (likely into retirement).
What do you think?