Lackey Returning for 2018 Something Cubs Are ‘Going to Talk About’

I’ll take “Eleven-word horror stories” for $2,000, Alex.

We learned last week that John Lackey planned to pitch again in 2018, which was at least mildly surprising. Then again, Lackey is a helluva competitor and the starting pitching market isn’t exactly brimming with talent. He can probably pull down a decent payday to hold down a spot at the bottom of someone’s rotation, which is exactly what he’s been doing for the last several months.

Despite their obvious need and familiarity, though, it’s hard to see the Cubs heading to Double Jeopardy with Lackey after what we saw last season. It already appears as though Father Time has caught him and he doesn’t figure to experience a rebirth coming off of a campaign in which he allowed only three fewer home runs (36) than his age (39). And even some of those solid stretches in the second half may have been propped up by more than a little bit of good fortune.

But Jed Hoyer left the door open to a reunion when he addressed the media Tuesday at the GM Meetings.

“Its certainly something we’re going to talk about,” the Cubs general manager admitted after confirming that Lackey intends to pitch again.

There are definitely worse options for a No. 5 starter, but there are also plenty of better ones. So where Lackey and the Cubs are concerned, I see this as one of those situations where you bump into your old coworker and you make plans to hang out, knowing the whole time that you’ll bail as soon as something else comes up.

Which is to say that the Cubs will check in on Lackey’s intentions and desires, but that they’ll probably keep him at arm’s length just in case nothing better works out. It’s too early to mark Alex Cobb down for 2018, but maybe we can just write his name on the roster in really light pencil so we can erase it quickly if need be. That leaves one spot.

It’s not as though there’ll be any tears cried if Big John lands a job somewhere else, so the Cubs can don’t need to hurry as they feel out the market for an additional starter or two. In fact, it’d probably be best for everyone involved if Lackey does indeed catch on with Team X. He gets paid and there’s ugliness in Chicago if he totally implodes.

The one way I can see this working — with the Cubs, I mean — is if the big right-hander understands the score and is willing to take a minimal salary with the knowledge that he’ll be cut loose immediately in the (entirely likely) event that he just doesn’t have it any longer. And I still don’t like that, since it likely means the Cubs missed out on someone with a higher ceiling.

I don’t begrudge Lackey wanting to make another run at it, whether it’s for the money or the love of the game, I just hope it’s not in Chicago. Not on the North Side, anyway.

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