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John Lackey to undergo Tommy John surgery, will miss 2012

Oct 25, 2011, 3:52 PM EDT

John Lackey Reuters

Well, at least this explains why he couldn’t get anyone out.

John Lackey traveled to California to have his elbow examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum and the Red Sox announced today that he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery, knocking him out for all of 2012 and perhaps part of 2013.

Lackey will earn $15.25 million while rehabbing next season and is also owed $15.25 million in both 2013 and 2014.

Undergoing elbow surgery also triggers a 2015 option in his contract for the MLB minimum salary, so the Red Sox just got themselves another year of Lackey and more importantly are now able to stretch his contract over another season to lessen their luxury tax figures.

The decision to sign Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million contract was obviously one of Theo Epstein’s worst and in an amusing twist Epstein’s replacement as Red Sox general manager, Ben Cherington, made his first official act as GM announcing Lackey’s surgery decision.

Boston now has two clear openings in the rotation behind Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz. And it turns out Lackey was pitching (horribly) through a torn elbow ligament while being ripped to shreds by the same fans and media members who constantly want everyone to play through injuries. Of course, it also turns out the Red Sox kept giving the ball to a guy with a torn elbow ligament for key September starts.

  1. The Common Man - Oct 25, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Wait, wait, wait. You’re telling me that Lackey struggled because he was injured and not because he lacked a moral compass and didn’t care about his god, country, team, and family? Someone really messed up the narrative on this one. Personally, I feel betrayed by those I trusted most.

    • The Common Man - Oct 25, 2011 at 3:58 PM

      And by that, of course, I mean Dan Shaughnessy.

      • kopy - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:00 PM

        I can personally guarantee that beer doesn’t ruin your elbow ligaments, unless I’m a medical miracle.

      • aceshigh11 - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:44 PM


        Ah, Curly-Haired Boyfriend…

  2. Erik Klemetti - Oct 25, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    So, Lackey who was dumped on by the media was trying to pitch with a torn elbow ligament? What a loser.

  3. aleskel - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    how about that

  4. bostonhasrealhockey - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    I think its an easier road to just eat the contract no? I mean even he was playing next year i still think what he gets paid hell never earn in a sense its not his problem he makes that much but him and drew together is 30 freaking million if were gonna overhaul lets do it right!

  5. Ari Collins - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    Pretty much the best case scenario for Boston. Hopefully he comes back healthy, and while he misses a year, Boston receives an extra year for half a million.

    Also makes the picture clearer for the 2012 rotation. Only three rotation spots locked down, so Cherington will likely be pretty busy now.

  6. steveflack - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    Hopefully, his wife will stand by him throughout his recovery in his hour of need.

  7. bloodysock - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    I wonder if his wife would have left HIM now that HE needs surgery.

  8. Jay Seaver - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:12 PM

    This is actually pretty great news, from a Sox fan perspective: We don’t get a repeat of Lackey’s 2011 next year; when he comes back in ’13, we can (hopefully) get behind him as a comeback story; if it doesn’t work out as well as we’d like, he’ll be much easier to trade.

    As I said before, that arm-surgery clause in the contract is kind of brilliant; the Sox are effectively only paying him the minimum to recover from surgery in the long run.

    • henryd3rd - Oct 26, 2011 at 6:16 AM

      Yeah; get behind him and kick his a$$ back to Cali?

  9. rmalmstrom - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Wasn’t the contract clause that he’d have to give the Sox a 6th year at the league minimum?

    • bloodysock - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:26 PM

      There Sox hold a 2015 club option at the MLB minimum salary if he misses significant time with surgery for pre-existing elbow injury in 2010-2014. The key is ‘pre-existing’.

    • uyf1950 - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:27 PM

      He now is under contract for the 2015 season for $500,000.

      • rexryanisablowhard - Oct 25, 2011 at 6:54 PM

        Still too much.

      • Ari Collins - Oct 25, 2011 at 6:54 PM

        Not totally clear if it’s a vesting option or a vesting team option. He might not actually be under contract for 2015 unless the Sox decide to pick up that option. In which case, it doesn’t affect the luxury tax. Unless they pick it up early, and that means it affects the luxury tax threshold early… really not sure.

      • uyf1950 - Oct 25, 2011 at 7:28 PM

        Ari, my understanding after reading several pieces on the contract is that it’s a club option. The Red Sox are under no obligation to pick it up. It’s just if they do they get his services for the 2015 season at $500K.

  10. lyon810 - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    For Halos fans, the financial farce that was the Lackey and Figgins contracts just keeps getting funnier. Over $110m for absolutely nothing. This was perhaps the only thing Reagins did right in his tenure. The joy was short-lived…

    • JBerardi - Oct 25, 2011 at 7:00 PM

      Teams paying $100m for nothing? Well, at least they didn’t also surrender Mike Napoli for the privilege of doing so…

      • Ari Collins - Oct 25, 2011 at 7:12 PM

        Come now. They only surrendered Mike Napoli for the privilege of paying $81M.

  11. uyf1950 - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    Aaron, if Lackey is scheduled to make $15.25 million in 2012/2014 doesn’t the $15.25 million dollars each year count towards the teams payroll for each of those years? And only the $500K in 2015 effect the teams payroll/luxury tax for that year. Plus it seems that people are forgetting that now the Sox have to go out and sign “another” pitcher at an additional cost to their payroll that will count against the luxury threshold.

    So the Sox have 2 pitchers that got or will get TJS (Dice K and Lackey) that they have to pay approximately $26M per year total and that they also have to replace even conservatively at say $20M per year total. So based on my example the Sox have $46M in payroll for 2 pitchers in 2012 that are yet to be named. Versus $26M if they had the services of Dice K and Lackey.

    I guess I fall to see how Lackey getting TJS saves the Red Sox any money payroll wise or luxury tax wise.

    • uyf1950 - Oct 25, 2011 at 4:41 PM

      Sorry should read … “fail” to see. in the last sentence.

    • drunkenhooliganism - Oct 25, 2011 at 5:12 PM

      I think his salary doesn’t count against the luxury tax number if he’s not on the 40-man roster

    • Ari Collins - Oct 25, 2011 at 6:51 PM

      It doesn’t save them money (except for getting them a minimum-salary pitcher in 2015, but of course he might not even be worth pitching at that point). I’m pretty sure you’re right that the 2015 team option does not affect the AAV, since it’s not guaranteed, and that is how luxury tax is calculated.

      But it does shed some light on why he was so bad in 2011, gives the team clarity on whether or not they can expect a rebound in 2012 (they can’t, so they know their offseason needs better), and gives hope that he can return to being the league average pitcher he was in 2010.

    • pisano - Oct 25, 2011 at 7:20 PM

      uyf1950… My friend, look at it from the Sox point of view, sure they’re stuck for the money, (thanks to Theo) but at least they’re saved from the mockery of the Boston fans every five days from running that bum out there.

      • uyf1950 - Oct 25, 2011 at 7:34 PM

        pisano my friend, good to see your posts. I’m really looking forward to the Hot Stove. Should be a fun and interesting winter.

  12. ballou0254 - Oct 25, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    It’d be great and all if you could blame his struggles on the elbow, but as the season grew longer his velocity improved. The source can easily be wrong and you could be right, but I vaguely remember the clause in his contract was for him re injuring his shoulder, which was a preexisting injury at the time of his free agency.

    • JBerardi - Oct 25, 2011 at 7:05 PM

      “but I vaguely remember the clause in his contract was for him re injuring his shoulder,”

      Your vague memories are, shockingly, wrong. The clause relates to his elbow.

      Regarding Lackey’s velocity, elbow injuries are said to primarily impact a pitcher’s command, whereas shoulder issues are more likely to sap velocity.

      • spudchukar - Oct 25, 2011 at 7:42 PM

        That is a gross generality.

      • JBerardi - Oct 26, 2011 at 9:15 AM

        Sure is. Looks to have been accurate in this case.

  13. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Oct 25, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    RSN rejoices!!

  14. SmackSaw - Oct 25, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    C’mon. He stunk in 2010 when he was healthy. He’s a bust no matter how you look at it.

    • Ari Collins - Oct 25, 2011 at 6:47 PM

      He was a league average pitcher in 2010. If he gets back to that level, every Sox fan will rejoice.

    • rexryanisablowhard - Oct 25, 2011 at 7:14 PM

      Agreed, his numbers have been progresively worse for the past 4 years and in 2013 he will return TJS at nearly age 35 and will still be owed $31M.

  15. spudchukar - Oct 25, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    Best baseball news out of New England in a while.

  16. mojosmagic - Oct 25, 2011 at 8:34 PM

    He was going bad while still with LA and before signing with fart town.

    • jimeejohnson - Oct 25, 2011 at 9:08 PM

      Lobstah town!

  17. dirtyharry1971 - Oct 25, 2011 at 10:12 PM

    This is really terrible news, my prayers and thoughts are with you john. Please get better ASAP as boston needs you JOHN!!!! Get Well Buddy!!!

  18. xevofb3k - Oct 25, 2011 at 10:13 PM

    Yeah, the load he put on his arm lifting all those beers and chicken wings injured his arm.

  19. ditka96 - Oct 25, 2011 at 10:46 PM

    My guess is that after a year off he will come back as a 300 pound guard in the NFL.

  20. titknocker - Oct 26, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    finally some good off season news for the red sox!!

  21. MVQB7 - Oct 27, 2011 at 5:16 AM

    Even Jamarcus Russell looks good compared to John Lackey

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