John Lackey is not riding off into the sunset just yet.
The veteran cowboy/pitcher/haircut-non-getter has always said he wouldn't announce his retirement and just march quietly back to his Texas home with nothing close to a David Ross-esque farewell tour.
Lackey — who just turned 39 last month — is not ready to call it quits, according to Jon Heyman:
sources: john lackey is not retiring. planning to pitch in 2018 https://t.co/h48EMZDTo9— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 8, 2017
Lackey went 12-12 with a 4.59 ERA in 2017, while giving up a league-high 36 homers. But he was hardly the only pitcher directly affected by the home run explosion in baseball in 2017 and he made 30 starts for the ninth time in his career.
It is curious that Lackey's sources have already said he'll be back in 2018 after his good buddy Jon Lester toasted to what was "probably" Lackey's last regular season start in St. Louis in late September:
John Lackey is the toast of the locker room! pic.twitter.com/Ej3ea5MyXR— NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) September 28, 2017
The day the Cubs were eliminated from playoff contention last month, reporters crowded around Lackey's locker in an effort to interview him before he rode off into the sunset, but he shut that down immediately, waving off the Chicago media.
So if he does return to professional baseball, is a reunion in the cards for the Cubs and Lackey in 2018?
The Cubs have two openings in their starting rotation and Lackey is a guy that can eat up innings as a quality No. 5 starter — he went 6-2 with a 3.82 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 8.3 K/9 in his last 12 starts of 2017.
But Lackey's year was also rocky, though that's probably to be expected of a guy who is ridiculously competitive and never hesitates to speak his mind.
He had an issue with Anthony Rizzo in the dugout in late July and was ejected in an epic tirade in mid-September. He also gave up the walk-off homer to Justin Turner in Game 2 of the NLCS and surrendered four runs on five hits and a pair of walks in 3.2 postseason innings as he was relegated to the bullpen.
At this point in his career, a move back to the American League would be at least a little head-scratching and the only two National League teams he's pitched for are the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. It would make sense that he would prefer to return to a team, situation and city he's already familiar with, so the Cubs and Lester may have the inside track at retaining Lackey's services if they so choose.
But the Cubs also may want to get some fresh blood in the starting rotation rather than a quick fix that would probably only be for the 2018 campaign.