After adding Lackey, Cameron, Red Sox look ahead
AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) – The Boston Red Sox added an ace who won a World Series clincher, giving them three. They brought in a former Gold Glove outfielder.
And they may not be done retooling after being swept in the AL division series.
After finalizing John Lackey’s $82.5 million, five-year contract and Mike Cameron’s $15.5 million, two-year deal on Wednesday, Boston must wait to see if the Mike Lowell-to-Texas trade will go through.
The Red Sox also could make a push for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in a deal that could send pitcher Clay Buchholz or outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, or both, to San Diego – with Lackey and Cameron available to take over their roles.
“We like the mix we have right now,” general manager Theo Epstein said. If “the need for a bigger bat somewhere in the lineup does develop, I think that’s something we can probably address during the season. By no means am I saying we’re done, but I also don’t feel a sudden rush to go out there and do something dramatic.”
Last offseason, the New York Yankees built their rotation by signing CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, and they won the World Series for the first time since 2000.
Now, with Lackey, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, who all started championship-winning games, the Red Sox rotation shapes up as one of baseball’s best.
“I’ve heard nothing but good things about those guys, about their work ethic,” Lackey said. “I’m ready to jump in with them and get it on, man.”
Lackey won Game 7 in 2002 against the San Francisco Giants when he was a rookie with Anaheim, Beckett pitched a shutout for Florida in Game 6 in 2003 against the Yankees, and Lester finished off Colorado in Game 4 in 2007.
“We could not only make next year’s rotation potentially elite but really solidify our rotation for a long time with the addition of John Lackey,” Epstein said.
The 31-year-old right-hander, the top pitcher in the free agent market after eight seasons with the Angels, is part of an emphasis on preventing runs. That includes Cameron, a three-time Gold Glove winner who became a free agent after two years with Milwaukee. They were introduced at separate news conferences, sort of an offseason doubleheader.
Boston almost certainly will lose left fielder Jason Bay, a free agent who hit 36 homers last year. David Ortiz had an awful first half last season and finished with a .238 batting average, 28 homers and 99 RBIs. Lowell, a third baseman who hit 17 homers and batted .290, would be headed to the Rangers for catcher Max Ramirez if the Rangers’ doctors are satisfied with his medical exam.
But the Red Sox will have catcher Victor Martinez, who hit .336 in 56 games for the Red Sox, for a full season with Jason Varitek, who batted .209, playing a backup role.
“A lot of talk has been centered on our offense last year and how to fix our offense,” Epstein said, “but lost in that mix is that our run prevention needs some improvement as well. We were one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball last year. Mike is a very important piece toward fixing that.”
If Boston adds no other players, Casey Kotchman, an outstanding defender, could play first base after seeing little action with the team last year. Kevin Youkilis would shift to third as part of a strong defensive infield with second baseman Dustin Pedroia and new shortstop Marco Scutaro.
Cameron played center field last year, a position where the Red Sox already have Ellsbury. No decision has been made on who will shift to left. J.D. Drew returns in right field with Jeremy Hermida the likely fourth outfielder.
Cameron hit .250 with 24 homers and 70 RBIs last season and has at least 21 homers in each of his last four seasons.
“I played probably one of the better center fields this year that I’ve played in a long time,” said Cameron, who will turn 37 before his 15th major league season. “It’s part of trying to go out and do the craft to the best of my ability to help the team defensively and definitely put a sense of calm in the pitchers.”
The last time Lackey was on the same field as the Red Sox, he pitched 7 1-3 innings in a 5-0 win in Anaheim in the opener of Los Angeles’ sweep of last season’s AL division series. Lester lost that game.
The Angels lost the AL championship series to the Yankees and once Lackey became a free agent, Epstein didn’t think he’d be interested in the Red Sox. Then Lackey’s agent, Steve Hilliard, told the Red Sox that Lackey was serious about joining them.
“That got our attention in a hurry,” Epstein said.
Lackey gets a $3.5 million signing bonus, $18 million next season and $15.25 million in each of the final four years. The total matches the five-year deal Burnett got from the Yankees.
Lackey is just 2-6 with a 5.43 ERA in 11 career starts at Fenway Park in the regular season and postseason. But in the past two seasons, he’s 1-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 23 2-3 innings over three starts there.
For his career, his regular-season numbers are remarkably similar to Beckett’s. Lackey is 102-71 with a 3.81 ERA in 233 starts. Beckett is 106-68 with a 3.79 ERA in his 225 starts.
Lackey was 11-8 with a 3.83 ERA last season and is 42-22 over the past three.
“I was always interested in coming here. Winning was definitely my first priority of a team to go to,” Lackey said. “I’ve been knocked out of the playoffs a few times by them.”
Beckett’s contract expires after the 2010 season, but Epstein told him in a text message to ignore speculation that he might be on the way out of Boston. Beckett’s response: “He’s very excited,” Epstein said.