It’s not entirely clear if this has been adequately reported or not, but John Lackey is signed for 2015 at the staggering rate of $500,000 (major league minimum) because he his contract stipulated just that were he to miss time significant due to injury.
Oh, you knew that?
Chances are that Lackey will not pitch for that amount of money at this age, but it is a asset (in that it is at least a bargaining tool in creating a short term extension at a moderate value) that is tradable. When you consider that Lackey has a 3.74 FIP in the
two seasons since his return from the missed season due to injury, it becomes clear that 1 year and two months of John Lackey at a reasonable price is nearly as valuable as 2 months of Jon Lester (3.20 FIP in the same time).
As the likes of Peter Gammons and Ken Rosenthal are increasingly throwing logs on the Lackey and Lester may/will be traded, twitter, sports radio, water cooler conversation also heats up as to (a) how stupid this is, (b) [or] how smart this is, (c) who we will get, (d) who will replace their production in the rotation.
Teams such as the Dodgers, Pirates, Orioles, Mariners and many other clubs have been reported as interested in making a deal for one of the Red Sox starters. This leaves only one question:
Can we deal them Felix Doubront instead?
[I joke, I joke…but seriously…Doubront is almost as good as Lester, right? Right……?]
Actually, the question is: what is needed in order to make such a deal worth the while of the Red Sox? Jim Callis [MLB Pipeline} noted on twitter the other day that he estimated the Red Sox as having the third best system in baseball – even after graduating Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley.
Deals like the ones Lackey and/or Lester would fetch typically return prospects. But with one of the strongest systems in baseball, is prospects what the Red Sox need?
Well, yes and no.
Yes in that it is always a huge asset to have top end, cost controlled players. No in that they are already trying to figure out how to gt Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman, et. al innings, as well as Mookie Betts, Will Middlebrooks, et. al at bats.
There is also the option floating out there that the Red Sox could use Matt Kemp (the theoretical left fielder, not the delusional center fielder you read about in his interviews) if the Dodgers would eat half of his contract or so. This makes sense as the Red Sox need
power, but it does not make sense in that Kemp ha had microfracture surgery, which is today was ACL repair surgery was in the 1990’s – something almost completely impossible to return to 100% from.
But for as deep as the Red Sox farm system is, it is missing two very important elements: (1) Corner power (unless you are the world’s biggest Travis Shaw fan – but that still does not answer the corner OF problem) and (2) High ceiling starting pitching (unless you still feel that Allen Webster is going to channel his inner Greg Maddux and locate a couple of pitches in his arsenal).
So, what is potentially available that would make trading Lester/Lackey worth the while of the Red Sox. Here is a smattering of players who could help the next great Red Sox team by offering the ceilings or skills the Red Sox farm system currently lacks:
Joc Peterson: He is blocked by the most difficult thing for a prospect to overcome: contracts. Kemp, Crawford, and Ethier are all overpaid, and at that, for a long time. Not everyone is sold on Pederson as an impact major leaguer, but for now he Baseball Prospectus’ #17 prospect in baseball at the mid way point of 2014. He is a capable CF, therefore he would look pretty great in Fenway’s expansive RF next to Jackie Bradley, Jr. for the next 6 years.
Corey Seager: Currently, BP’s #18 prospect in baseball. He plays SS right now, but likely projects as a 3b. While he would be a hugely exciting piece, his profile is redundant to Bogaerts (though Seager is more of line drive hitter and Bogaerts a bit more of a power
hitter) – and would further complicate the question of what to do with the likes of Devin Marrero, Will Middlebrooks, and Garin Cecchini.
(FYI: Julio Urias is not going to happen. As a Mexican in the Los Angeles system, he may be the most unlikely to be traded player in all of baseball.)
Jameson Taillon – If the Red Sox were to trade for Taillon, they would receive his friend Tommy John along with him. The 6’7″ hurler has missed the 2014 season with a the famous elbow injury. However, he is still ranked as BP’s #26 (Keith Law dropped him to #38 overall). If he were to return healthy, he is potentially a number 2 starter.
Tyler Glasnow – Younger, healthier than Taillon – but also further from the majors than Taillon. He hits 98 on the gun, has two plus secondary pitches. Ceiling of “ace” is being thrown around in industry circles. Glasnow would not help in 2015, but he would still be a coup in a trade.
Gregory Polanco – Here is guessing that he is 100% unavailable.
Austin Meadows – He is 19 and a long way from the bigs. Profiles as a power, corner bat. Some love him (Law), others are melancholy (Parks/BP).
Dylan Bundy – A consensus top 10/12 prospect in the game as a starting pitcher. A year off a lost season due to injury, he is re-establishing himself as a top prospect. If Bundy can come in return for Lester, I – nay we – will all get over those two months we saw
Lester pitch in orange.
Taijuan Walker – Walker grades out as a 70 fastball and 70 slider with 60 command (according to Baseball America, on the scouting scale of 20-80). The more I think about it, the more I would wish Lester well pitching for his home town team.
Ultimately, this is all speculation. Who knows where Lester or Lackey is going and what kind of return they will net. Heck, the seemingly impossible may still happen – smiles and hand shakes around a signed extension. Who knows?
But, this is a new position for the Red Sox to be in. Sellers with expiring contracts of elite players. In the past, they have let the Ellsbury’s and Damon’s of the team walk. They had to as their contracts were expiring on contending teams.
For one summer, let’s enjoy what it is like to the be the Royals or the Marlins every season.
Bring us all your high end prospects!