John Lackey says if he doesn't get a contract extension from the Los Angeles Angels by Opening Day, he'll test free agency at the end of the year.
And, Lackey says, the Angels are "not trying very hard."
Lackey is a true horse, a good No. 1 for most of the teams in baseball. But the economy comes into play on both sides. How much can the Angels commit, not knowing what their 2009 revenues will look like? Is Lackey really willing to hit the market in seven months, not knowing if there will be a recovery by then?
Then again, Lackey might be the C.C. Sabathia of next year's free-agent class: far and away the top pitcher available. If all team options are picked up, the top starting pitchers in Lackey's free-agent class will be Erik Bedard, Doug Davis, Rich Harden, Jason Marquis and Brett Myers. Lackey is durable (one career DL trip), effective (3.42 ERA over past four seasons is third-best among pitchers with 600 innings) and a winner (91-63 career record).
Lackey apparently is saving his sinkers for the games and throwing hardballs at the Angels.
"It's kind of on them at this point. I love playing here and I'd like to stay, but I've put myself into a category that they need to get to.
"... They got (a hometown discount) on my last contract. My performance outweighed my last contract. . . . This is kind of my turn. They've had control (of my contract) for six years. Now they have to convince me."
The L.A. Times speculates Lackey would like a five-year deal in the $90-million range. He's certainly worth more than A.J. Burnett (five years, $82.5 million).
"There are no updates, it's really unchanged," (Angels general manager Tony) Reagins said. "We like John. We'd like him to be in the organization long-term. We'll have to see where that ends up."