Lackey declines Halos' arbitration offer
Coveted righty rumored to be seeking six-year contract
INDIANAPOLIS -- As expected, John Lackey declined the Angels' arbitration offer late Monday night, clearing him to discuss free-agent proposals with any Major League club.
As a Type A free agent, Lackey -- the most highly sought-after starting pitcher in the market -- will yield the Angels two high choices in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft as compensation if he's signed by another club.
The Angels are slated to receive two compensatory picks for Chone Figgins when the third baseman's four-year contract with the Mariners is finalized. Seattle will surrender a top Draft pick along with a supplemental choice in the sandwich round going to the Angels.
"We have several options out there," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said when asked about Lackey. "Lack's one of them. This hasn't changed from day one.
"We have engaged Lackey and his agent. We knew this would take time. It's part of the process. I'm not going to get into [a specific offer]. We're going to be creative and not narrow our focus in any area."
Lackey could be seeking a deal for more than five years in the $100 million neighborhood, according to Yahoo Sports.
The Web site reported Monday that a Major League club that has talked with Lackey's representatives indicated the Angels' ace of the past five seasons is seeking a contract longer, and with higher annual value, than the five-year, $82.5 million deal A.J. Burnett signed with the Yankees last winter.
The Angels, whose representatives reached the Winter Meetings on Monday, remain interested in retaining Lackey, but it's highly doubtful they'd go as high as six years at roughly $17 million a year.
The Mets, who reportedly have a meeting set with Steve Hilliard, Lackey's agent, would like to make Lackey their No. 2 starter behind Johan Santana. But, the New York Post reports, the Mets are reluctant to go beyond four years for Lackey, who is 31 and coming off two injury-abbreviated seasons.
After not missing a start because of an injury for five-plus seasons, Lackey has made 24 and 27 starts the past two seasons, going a combined 23-13. He missed the opening months of both 2008 and '09 with right arm ailments.
Lackey was 11-8 with a 3.83 ERA in 2009, saving some of his best work for the postseason. He shut out Boston across 7 1/3 innings in winning Game 1 of the AL Division Series, then held the Yankees to seven runs (five earned) in 12 1/3 innings in two AL Championship Series starts.
He's 3-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 14 career postseason appearances, 12 as a starter. In his 2002 rookie year, Lackey won Game 7 of the World Series for the Angels against the Giants after a brilliant start (seven shutout innings) in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Twins.
For his career, Lackey is 102-71 with a 3.81 ERA. His best season was 2007 when he was 19-9 with a league-best 3.01 ERA, finishing third in the AL Cy Young Award derby.
Burnett, who is 20 months older than Lackey, is 100-85 with a 3.84 career ERA. He was 1-1 with a 5.27 ERA in five postseason starts for the World Series champion Yankees, his first taste of postseason play.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.