As baseball’s 2014 trade deadline approaches it is looking more and more like the Boston Red Sox will move Jon Lester out of town. Reports late Tuesday night confirm that at least four teams are after the 30-year-old three-time All-Star.
The Oakland A’s, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates are all apparently in on the big lefty and the Red Sox are listening to offers and trying to make a deal happen. So far this season Lester has made 21 starts and is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. He also boasts 149 strikeouts against just 32 walks in 143 innings.
The Red Sox want to get younger if they send Lester away, and the soon-to-be free agent has even stated that he would be willing to return to Boston even if the team ships him away. While his status as a two-month rental could hurt Boston in trade negotiations, the fact that several teams are bidding for him will help.
The Oakland A’s already went out and made a big splash by acquiring Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs earlier this month, so it’s interesting that they are in the hunt for Lester. But Hammel has been awful since arriving, allowing 12 runs in 12.2 innings over three starts, and general manager Billy Beane is clearly going all-in on this season.
The team’s farm system took a big hit from the Cubs trade, so mustering enough ammunition to make a deal for Lester would be difficult. Shortstop Daniel Robertson and first baseman Matthew Olson would likely be Boston’s targets.
If the Los Angeles Dodgers want Lester they will almost certainly have to part with top outfield prospect Joc Pederson or their system’s top shortstop, Corey Seager. I doubt they would be willing to trade away either and that will likely be the sticking point.
The Pirates are an interesting case because they have rarely made moves for big-time players, but they appear to be very interested in adding Lester. We have been told the Red Sox are most interested in Pittsburgh’s top outfield prospect Josh Bell, but the Pirates have balked at including him in a trade. They would likely have to part with Bell to get a deal done.
The Cardinals are another interesting case because they are unlikely to include top prospect Oscar Taveras in a trade for Lester. That means outfielder Stephen Piscotty, or lefties Rob Kaminsky and Marco Gonzales would likely have to be involved in any deal. Kaminsky and Gonzales won’t blow Boston away and St. Louis would probably prefer to hang on to Piscotty, which makes a trade between the two teams unlikely.
Boston has put Lester out on the market and teams are interested. The key for the Red Sox now is getting the maximum return for him. And that won’t be easy.