St. Louis Cardinals Make $15.8M Qualifying Offers to John Lackey, Jason Heyward


The St. Louis Cardinals made qualifying offers to starting pitcher John Lackey and outfielder Jason Heyward on Friday morning, extending an invitation for both players to stick with the team for 2016 on a one-year, $15.8 million-dollar deal.

No major-league player has accepted a qualifying offer during the three years of the offer’s existence, but considering the circumstances for Lackey, he could very well end up being the first. The 37-year-old Lackey, who made a base salary of $507,500 in 2015 thanks to a technicality in the 5-year contract he signed with the Boston Red Sox back in 2010, may not get a better offer than $15.8 million for 2016. He could get a multi-year deal from another team on the free agent market, but considering his age and 13 seasons of major-league experience, Lackey may be at the point where he would prefer to operate on a year-to-year basis anyway.

If Lackey accepts the offer, it would create a major glut of starting pitching for the Cardinals. The team already has Adam Wainwright, who’s projected to be the rotation’s ace for at least a few more years, as well as 2015 All-Stars Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, former All-Star Lance Lynn, and the aforementioned Garcia. In addition, many expect 21-year-old righthander Alex Reyes, who is ranked 16th among all MLB prospects, to ascend to the major leagues at some point in 2016, and the team also has lefties Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney, and Tyler Lyons, all of whom started for the team at various points in 2015, as internal depth options. There would almost certainly need to be a trade to loosen things up, whether it came from the projected major-league rotation or the minor-league depth supply.

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Then again, if Lackey doesn’t take the offer and signs with another team, the Cardinals would receive a draft pick in return, so there aren’t many negatives to the situation. If he signs, the Cardinals have an extra depth option, which is a positive considering that the team seems to lose a starting pitcher in the early part of very season, and if he leaves, they have the opportunity to improve their organizational depth.

It would be an absolute shock if Heyward accepted the qualifying offer, as the 26-year-old outfielder is expected to get a contract offer with a term of at least seven years and a payment of nine figures this winter. The Cardinals have interest in bringing him back, but they assure themselves a draft pick if he leaves by extending him the qualifying offer.

Next: Cardinals Add OF Anthony Garcia to 40-Man Roster

Head to our Cardinals page for frequent updates as free agency gets underway this weekend.