Once Jon Lester makes his final decision, most expect the floodgates to open on the starting pitching market. Lester, who has garnered interest from the Red Sox, Cubs, Mariners, and most recently the Dodgers, is reportedly set to make his final decision before the week is over. While Boston waits for the 30-year old to sign, the team must be prepared with multiple backup options if Lester goes elsewhere. In Boston’s search to rebuild the top of their rotation, the team will probably need to delve into the trade market in order to find the staff ace that they desperately need. Oakland Athletics’ left-hander Jeff Samardzija has been regarded as one of the Red Sox best options on the trade front, as the 6’6 southpaw posted a 2.99 ERA in 220 innings last season. In acquiring Samardzija, Boston would only have the 30-year old under contract for one season, which means a trade package shouldn’t require a top prospect like Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart, or Henry Owens. Devan Marrero, Boston’s slick fielding, light hitting shortstop prospect, could be of some interest to Oakland. While Marrero wouldn’t totally fill the gap left by Addison Russell in the A’s farm system, he is still a highly regarded, former first round selection by Boston. In 68 games in double-A last season, Marerro hit .291/.371/.433 with 19 doubles and 29 RBI’s. Upon being summoned to triple-A in the middle of the season, Marrero struggled at the plate, and wound up posting a .210/.260/.285 slash after his first 180 triple-A at-bats. Of course, Marrero is still a work in progress and he won’t be ready to assume an everyday shortstop role on the A’s roster, which means more would need to be added in a potential Samardzija trade. Luckily for the Red Sox, they have a ton of trade chips to use at their disposal. Perhaps the Athletics would be interested in a reclamation project like Will Middlebrooks. Or maybe Billy Beane would like to add one of Boston’s young pitchers like Matt Barnes or Anthony Ranaudo. Or, let’s get crazy, maybe Oakland realized that trading Yoenis Cespedes was a mistake, and they want his power back. With recent reports of the team shopping Brandon Moss, perhaps the a player like Allen Craig would peak the A’s interest. Any of the names listed are plausible trade options in a potential Jeff Samarzija deal, but identifying what the A’s offseason goal is is a whole different beast. Oakland kicked off the winter by inking Billy Butler to a 3 year, $30M deal, but then turned around and traded their best player in third baseman Josh Donaldson. While trading their best player would suggest that the A’s are in rebuild mode, a small market team doling out $10M AAV to Butler shows the team isn’t totally sure what direction to take. Trying to stay competitive while rebuilding is a trick that Oakland could be trying to pull off, and would require both major and minor league assets. Either way, Boston is positioned to make a deal for Samardzija, so long as the cost is reasonable.
- While Yoenis Cespedes seems like a logical trade target for the Cincinnati Reds, the clubs GM said on Wednesday that the two sides have yet to discuss the 29-year old Cuban slugger. Theoretically, the Reds could send one of their starting pitchers to Boston in exchange for Cespedes, as such a deal would meet both teams needs. However, acquiring an arm like Cy Young runner-up Johnny Cueto would require more than just Cespedes, even though the 28 year old is entering a contract year. Still, names like Mat Latos or Mike Leake could intrigue Boston if the two teams discuss a deal in the future. (Reds haven’t talked to Red Sox about Yoenis Cespedes)
- Whatever the final number is on Jon Lester’s new contract, it’s hardly debatable that it will be in the neighborhood of 6 years, $150M. In signing the 30-year old Lester to a deal of that magnitude come considerable risk, considering his age, past workload, and the histroical data on pitchers in the same age bracket. While some pitchers like Pedro Martinez and Andy Pettite pitched effectively into their 30’s, others hurlers like Brad Radke and Brandon Webb saw their careers spiral out of control. After pouring over the data, predicting how Lester will age is really a coin flip. (Pitchers like Jon Lester are about 50-50 bet to remain effective into their mid-30’s)
- With the LA Dodgers now heavily involved in the Jon Lester sweepstakes, there is a growing feeling that the team will shop right hander Zack Greinke. According to a Wednesday night report filled by MLBDailyDish.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Dodgers front office is worried that Greinke will use his opt-out clause next season, which explains their interest in Lester. Last season the 31-year old hurler posted a 2.71 ERA in over 200 innings pitched. (The Dodgers could shop Zack Greinke)
- With teams like the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers willing to spend big bucks on Jon Lester, a reunion between the southpaw and the Red Sox seems less and less likely to happen. Luckily for the Red Sox, there are plenty of alternative options that the team can choose from on both the trade and free agent markets. Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels be Boston’s best alternative to signing Lester, although his addition would require some roster shuffling. Boston could also double down on number two starters, or sacrifice another draft pick to sign James Shields. (If the Dodgers sign Jon Lester, what do the Red Sox do?)
- Tweet of the day: Ya really can’t…
I really don't think the Dodgers can count as a mystery team
— Brian Pickett (@BrianPickett) December 4, 2014