McAdam: Lackey situation could mimic Burnett's

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McAdam: Lackey situation could mimic Burnett's

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Everything the New York Yankees do manages to catch the attention of the Red Sox. That's just how things work with the two rivals.

But the Yankees' move over the weekend may have had the Red Sox paying even more attention than usual.

After a week or so of negotiations, the Yankees finally agreed to send A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for two mid-level prospects.

To facilitate the deal, the Yankees included 13 million to help the Pirates pay the remaining 33 million still owed to Burnett over the next two seasons.

And why does this move affect the Red Sox? Simple: sometime in the future, the Red Sox may want to do the very same with John Lackey.

Lackey and Burnett have a lot of common. Each signed essentially the same exact contract -- five years, 82.5 million -- within a year of each other.

Each has been a big disappointment after signing the deal. Burnett was 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA in three seasons with the Yankees; Lackey was 26-23 with a 5.26 ERA in his first two seasons with the Sox.

After acquiring Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, the Yankees viewed Burnett as a spare (if expensive) part and were determined to move him.

They'll subsidize Burnett, taking on nearly 40 percent of his salary this season and next.

The Red Sox may well do the same with Lackey.

The one key difference, of course, is that Lackey is likely sidelined for the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last October. By contrast, Burnett was at least healthy at the time of the move.

However, the surgical procedure could, in time, help the Red Sox in their efforts to move Lackey's contract. While Tommy John surgery is a major procedure, it's not career-threatening the way it once was. Every year, pitchers come back from the surgery, often with improved velocity.

Also, the Sox can make the case that Lackey's performance was so poor in 2011 because he was pitching most of the season with a torn ligament in his elbow.

By definition, Lackey almost has to be better when he returns from surgery.

Finally, thanks to a clause in Lackey's original deal, the Red Sox have another contractual edge. The deal included language which stated that if Lackey were to miss a season because of an elbow injury, the Sox would in turn get a sixth year tacked on for the major league minimum salary.

That means that, when Lackey shows he's healthy, the Sox can tell teams that they'll be getting three seasons worth of Lackey at just under 33 million, rather than the two the Pirates are getting for the same amount.

That's a huge advantage financially, since the third year also manages to bring down the average annual value (AAV) of the deal from about 16 million annually to 11 million. Such a deal keeps payroll down when MLB computes the luxury tax liability for each club.

Of course, the Red Sox' priority is for Lackey to return from surgery and be the 15-game, 200-inning pitcher they thought they were getting when they signed him as a free agent.

That's a far more efficient path, since, like the Yankees, they would have to pay a good portion of Lackey's remaining money for him not to pitch for them.

As the Yankees found in obtaining two lower-level prospects from Pittsburgh, the return won't be great. The only way the Sox will get more than the Yankees got is if they decide to take back more money. The more salary wiped off the books, the higher the asking price can be.

A best-case scenario might work like this: Lackey comes back healthy in 2013, pitches reasonably well (double figures in wins, an ERA around 4.00), but the Sox determine he will never truly flourish in Boston.

They could then shop him after the 2013 season and offer him around with two years remaining at 16.5 million (16 million for the final year on the original deal and another 500,000 or so in 2015). The Sox could pay 6 million or so of that and get something halfway decent in return.

It's not much, but halfway through a deal they surely have come to regret, it's about all they have.

Red Sox 'not going to rush' moving pitching depth after acquiring Sale

Red Sox 'not going to rush' moving pitching depth after acquiring Sale

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The addition of Chris Sale to the Red Sox' rotation has created a rare glut of starting pitchers, including seven with major league experience.

That means that at least one will have to be moved in a trade. But Red Sox' president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski isn't in any hurry.

"We're not aggressively looking to do something,'' he said. "We're really just digesting what's taken place. I think if we wanted to aggressively make a deal, we could definitely do that. But I don't really have a big hole on our major league club to address at this time.

"I think it's really important to gather all the info. Some teams have (starters) available; there are free agents out there. Our philosophy is kind of say, 'Let's just see what happens.' We're not going to rush out and do anything.''

That makes sense, especially since there's a very thin free agent market for starters, and many teams that need upgrades to their rotation.

Eventually, some are going to get desperate and may have to overpay. In that scenario, the Sox could really capitalize.

The starter the Sox would like to move the most is Clay Buchholz, if only because his salary ($13.5 million) is easily the highest among the three the Sox would be willing to part with. Steven Wright has yet to qualify for salary arbitration and Drew Pomeranz will get a bump from last year, but will still be under $5 million after arbitration.

Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, almost certainly won't be dealt because of his youth and potential, though Dombrowski hinted that teams have checked on the availability of every starter except The Big Three of Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello "as well as guys who aren't (in the current major league picture like Brian Johnson, Henry Owens, and Roenis Elias).''

Depth in the rotation is always welcome, but the numbers are such that the Sox can't make the current group of seven starters work.

"You start counting,'' said Dombrowski, "and there's not enough spots for everybody on the team.''

It's possible that the Sox could go into spring training with all seven and wait to see if injuries elsewhere give them additional leverage.

But that, too, is unlikely.

"It seems like there's not a lot of moves made in spring training,'' he said.

As for what the Sox might be seeking in return, the Sox don't have any obvious need they have to fill. It's possible they could want to obtain some prospects to help restock the system after six were traded in two trades this week.

"I can't really answer that question.'' he said. "We've traded a lot (of prospects). We wouldn't mind replenishing some of what we've traded.''

Stevens on Thomas' groin injury: 'It’s important that he’s 100 percent'

Stevens on Thomas' groin injury: 'It’s important that he’s 100 percent'

There’s no such thing as a good time to have an injury. 

But in terms of Isaiah Thomas being sidelined with a right groin injury and the schedule awaiting the Boston Celtics … this is about as bad a time as you can imagine to be without their scoring leader.

Thomas returned to Boston ahead of tonight’s game at Orlando, marking his first game missed since the 2014-2015 season. 

He suffered a right groin injury in the second quarter of Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston on Monday. 

At the time, Thomas was optimistic that he would be able to play tonight. But with a day off from practice, the soreness proved to be too much for Thomas to suit up and play tonight. 

While it’s unclear just how severe his groin injury is, the Celtics are likely to be overly cautious (like they are with most injuries) about his return which may result in him missing more games than Wednesday night’s matchup against Orlando. 

“Those things (groin injuries) are a little unpredictable,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters earlier today. “Especially in this sport, you have to be able to stop and change direction on a dime, especially him. It’s important that he’s 100 percent.”

Stevens is spot-on when he talks about how uncertain a return for Thomas is currently. 

New York’s Kristaps Porzingis suffered a groin injury against the Celtics in a preseason game back in October that didn’t result in anything more than him missing a day of practice. 

It was a different story when Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic suffered a right groin injury last spring (March 7-29) that sidelined him for 13 games. 

The timetable for Thomas’ return to the floor is likely to fall somewhere within those two timetables which would make an already daunting stretch of games even more difficult. 

Following tonight’s game, Boston has 12 games remaining in the month of December with nine being against teams with a winning record. And of the three games against teams below-.500 (Miami twice, Indiana), two of them are on the road.