<
>

Red Sox close to signing Lackey?

Gosh, it sure sounds like a deal might be close:

    Free-agent right-hander John Lackey underwent a physical Monday with the Red Sox, an indication that he is close to an agreement with the team, according to a major-league source.

    The deal is expected to be similar to the five-year, $82.5 million contract that the Yankees awarded free-agent right-hander A.J. Burnett last winter.

    The Red Sox generally do not like to award five-year contracts, which is one of the sticking points in their negotiations with free-agent left fielder Jason Bay. It is not known whether they would guarantee Lackey five years, or award him a three- or four-year deal with options.

    --snip--

    The Sox still need to address left field and their corner-infield positions. A major investment in Lackey would indicate that they might not spend heavily on Matt Holliday to replace Bay, perhaps signing free agent Adrian Beltre to play third if they complete a trade of Mike Lowell to the Rangers.

    Bay's agent, Joe Urbon, said Saturday that his client was prepared to "move on" due to a difference of opinion with the Red Sox on what he should be command as a free agent.

The problem isn't that Bay wants a five-year deal. The problem is that Bay isn't worth what the Red Sox have already offered him. Let alone more. Essentially, Bay has been a $15 million player in each of the last two seasons. The Red Sox reported have offered him $15 million per season for four seasons. But he's in his 30s, so presumably will be worth somewhat less than $15 million per season, over the next four seasons. Maybe not a lot less. But less. (And by the way, this is particularly true if he's in the National League, where he can't often DH.)

That's OK. The Red Sox can afford to overpay a little. But should they overpay a lot, for a weak-fielding left fielder in his 30s? I don't think so. Neither, apparently, do they.

I can see the questions now, even if the Red Sox do sign John Lackey ... But who's going to play left field???

It doesn't matter.

OK, it matters a little. But last year the Yankees won 103 games with Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner in center field, and the Red Sox won 95 games with a bunch of scrubeenies at shortstop and 11 different starting pitchers. No team is perfect. Don't listen to the alarmists. The Red Sox usually know what they're doing. A run prevented is worth just as much as a run scored. If not overpaying for Jason Bay means signing John Lackey, there's absolutely no reason to panic.