The weaknesses of the 2014 Atlanta Braves have been discussed in depth here on Tomahawk Take this week. The team could use a bench bat, a left-handed reliever, and another starting pitcher, given the recent struggles of Mike Minor and Alex Wood. Acquiring another starting pitcher could solve two of these issues. Adding another starter to the rotation would allow Atlanta to send Alex Wood back to the bullpen, and add depth to the rotation. This would give them that left-handed option out of the pen along with the new addition to the rotation, killing two birds with one stone. Names like David Price, Jon Lester, and the recently traded Jake Peavy have been discussed in the last few weeks. However, there is one pitcher who could be available that is possibly being overlooked. That pitcher is Boston Red Sox right-hander John Lackey.
Lackey was a bulldog innings eater for the then Anaheim Angels to begin his career. His most prolific season came in 2007 when he ended the year with a 3.01 ERA, finishing third in the American League CY Young voting. Lackey decided to sign with the Boston Red Sox after the 2009 season. Once signing in Boston it appeared like Lackey might be on a serious decline, as he put together back to back poor seasons. This stretch included the 2011 season, where he struggled badly, finishing the year with a sky-high 6.41 ERA. He missed the 2012 season due to Tommy John Surgery, and then enjoyed a bit of a career rebirth last season. He posted a 3.52 ERA in 189.1 innings pitched in 2013, and also pitched well in the postseason, helping the Red Sox win the World Series. This season Lackey has started 20 games for Boston, and currently holds a 3.66 ERA. Not spectacular numbers, but solid considering Lackey starts a large portion of his games in the hitter friendly Fenway Park.
Lackey would be a great fit in Atlanta, giving them a much needed reliable starting pitcher to add to the rotation. He is a passionate and fierce competitor who absolutely despises losing (just ask Mike Scioscia). He also has significant postseason experience which would benefit the Braves should they play into October. A transition to the National League could bring an uptick in performance, and provide a new challenge that would reignite the competitive fire in Lackey.
Most importantly Lackey would not involve giving up the high caliber prospects that going after Lester or Price might require. The Braves seem reluctant to include Lucas Sims, or Jose Peraza in any deals, and also do not want to take on the expensive contracts of Price or Lester. Going after John Lackey would allow them to avoid both of these scenarios. Due to a unique injury clause in his contract Lackey has a team option for only $500,000 next season, making him well within the Braves price range. There is no indication that Atlanta is considering acquiring Lackey, but it may be a low cost attempt at solving some of their current problems. With the Red Sox in rebuild mode they could be looking to unload Lackey, and Atlanta would be wise to at least start a conversation. This move would not solve everything, but it may be a risk worth taking.