Angels: Lackey going, Chapman coming?
The two most coveted free-agent pitchers this winter could be John Lackey and Aroldis Chapman. The Angels are not confident in their chances of retaining Lackey, who could be in line for a $100-million contract.
Torii Hunter has the most lucrative contract in Angels history, at $90 million, although the Angels submitted losing bids of $160 million for Mark Teixeira, $140 million for CC Sabathia and $118 million for Alfonso Soriano.
Lackey has compared himself to A.J. Burnett, and not unjustifiably. Burnett, 32, who got five years and $82.5 million from the Yankees last winter, has a career record of 100-85 and a 3.84 ERA. He has no decisions in three postseason starts, all this year, with a 4.42 ERA.
Lackey, 31, has a career record of 102-71 and a 3.81 ERA. In 14 postseason appearances, he is 3-4 with a 3.12 ERA. In three postseason starts this year, he went 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA.
And then there is Chapman, 22, the Cuban defector with the 101-mph fastball. Chapman is in New York for introductory meetings with representatives of interested teams, a list that includes the Mets, Red Sox, Cardinals, Cubs and White Sox. The Yankees invited Chapman to last night's Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, according to si.com.
The Angels are interested in Chapman too, and they plan to scout the workouts he is expected to stage next month.
"We'll meet with him after we see him pitch and we have a better idea of what he is worth," scouting director Eddie Bane said.
Chapman is asking for as much as $60 million, the New York Post reported. The Red Sox signed Daisuke Matsuzaka for $52 million, a record for an international free agent, and paid another $51 million to his Japanese club for negotiating rights. The Washington Nationals signed Stephen Strasburg for $15.1 million, a record for players subject to the amateur draft.
"It's not the same as Strasburg or Dice-K," Bane said. "You had seen those guys pitch against fair competition -- and, in Dice-K's case, good competition. We just have little snippets of this guy from the World Baseball Classic."
Chapman pitched twice in the World Baseball Classic, giving up four runs in 6 1/3 innings.
Bane said he hopes Chapman can speak with Angels first baseman Kendry Morales -- not so much for Morales to sell Chapman on the Angels, but for Morales to share his journey from Cuban defector to American professional baseball player.
"Not too many people have that perspective in the world," Bane said.
When Morales signed with the Angels at age 21 he was one of Cuba's most celebrated young position players. He did not make the major leagues for good until he was 25, and Bane suggested Chapman could stand to hear that part of the story too.
"I'm pretty sure Kendry thought he was ready for the big leagues as soon as he signed the contract," Bane said.
-- Bill Shaikin
Photo: John Lackey acknowledges the crowd after exiting Game 5 of the ALCS on Oct. 22. Credit: Chris Carlson / Associated Press