While many of us are getting increasingly anxious that Lackey hasn't rolled over like a faithful dog to get a belly scratch and contract extension of the Angels' choosing, there is an equally important question to be asked, one which the Angels front office must be using in its negotiation calculus:
What other team would pay Lackey $90M/5 yrs?
This is an important question to consider, since any of us can ask for any salary, but that doesn't mean the market will support it.
In the case of Lackey, there are very few teams with the financial resources to invest $18M a year (annualized) in a single player. Furthermore, the game is awash with cautionary tales of why this isn't a good idea (Helton, Zito, Hampton, Park, etc).
Only a major-market team like the Angels is able to sit at this table and play. Which are the other teams?
° Yankees--they have Sabathia, Burnett and Wang right now, so Lackey would hardly arrive as the ace of the squad--he takes pride in being the big-game guy, the one who gets the ball for the opening game of a series or a must-win game. With the Yankees, he would surely be second-chair (at least) to Sabathia, and maybe to one or both of the others. Besides the Yankees have to figure out how to upgrade the offense with Posada aging and Matsui and Damon leaving at season's end.
°Cubs--See above; the Cubs already wrote Lackey's contract and had Zambrano sign it. Again, he wouldn't head the rotation. In addition, the uncertain ownership situation may mean the Cubs would be unable to pull the trigger on such a deal next Winter.
° Red Sox--The team would probably be more interested in locking up Beckett, whose deal expires at the end of 2010, and has $100M invested in Dice-K. The team locked up Lester a few days ago and I suspect sees him as the #2. Assuming Beckett is healthy in 2009, I don't think Lackey has much of a chance here. Boston also may place a higher priority on buying out Papelbon's remaining arbitration years and his first few years of free agency.
Besides, Fenway has more than a few ghosts for him to deal with, and, like the Yankees, a lot of fan pressure to succeed, something he hasn't dealt with in Anaheim.
° Dodgers--As if. Maybe if Lackey wishes to be paid in 2020 for the next six seasons.
° That leaves THE METS. They already have Johan Santana earning $20M+ through 2013, Perez making $12M a year on a new deal, and a need to re-sign Mike Pelfrey. Lackey could conceivably come in as #2, but he'd have to learn a new league and new hitters. And he'd have to deal with the hostility of New York fans if he's less than perfect.
Note also that each of these teams lacks one thing the Angels possess: An evening marine layer which tends to turn some home runs into long fly balls, which in turn can keep a pitcher's stats looking better and keep him in games longer.
So, really... which teams are apt to sign Lackey? Or is this shaping up to be like the Dodgers and Manny?