Jul 25, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) throws a pitch during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Trade Rumor: Braves In the Mix for Lester?

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The Braves’ #1 relief target remains Andrew Miller, according to David O’Brien of the AJC, but there’s another name that has just cropped up that may be a little surprising.

Jon Lester.

 

Sean McAdam, writing for csnne.com this morning, indicates that the Red Sox are now being pounded by virtually every contending team in baseball about a variety of their players, but Lester is now getting lots of interest from a number of clubs, including the Atlanta Braves.

 

McAdam writes that teams interested previously were St. Louis, Baltimore, and the Dodgers (like they need another arm!).  However, “industry sources” are telling him that Milwaukee, Atlanta, Oakland, and Toronto have also expressed interest with Toronto being the most aggressive.

That aggression would tend to make sense, since prevailing wisdom suggests a divisional rival would have to overpay a bit to get the Red Sox to play ball with them.  McAdam does indicate that Boston would be willing to deal with Toronto, though not so much with other divisional rivals… say, the ones decked out in pinstripes, for instance.

 

How does this work for Atlanta?

Continuing to quote from the article, McAdam tells us nothing surprising:

the Red Sox are still talking “conceptually” with clubs, without specific proposals being made. The Red Sox’ intent is to obtain “multiple” prospects in exchange for Lester — including at least one elite prospect — though some discussions have centered around established players coming to Boston in return for the left-hander.

 

Names suggested in that ‘elite’ category include:  “the Cardinals’ Oscar Taveras or either Joc Pederson or Corey Seager from the Dodgers.”

Ugh.

 

Well, that means one thing to me:  Lucas Sims.  Never mind other pieces that would be involved.

 

Is Lester Worth it?

Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Andrew Miller (30). Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

First, keep in mind that the Braves still want Andrew Miller for the bullpen, so if this were to happen (still not likely, of course), I could envision a blockbuster multi-player deal for both Lester and Miller.

Lester is 30 years old (31 in January) and is completing a 6 year, $42.75 million contract after this season.  So he’s a “rental” by definition.  In terms of performance, he has “near Ace” stuff, with only a 2012 hiccup and a slightly down year 2013 making me hesitate on that designation.  His career ERA+ rating is 120 and he’s throwing a remarkable (career best) 155 this year (actual ERA of 2.52).  This actually better than David Price for this season and equivalent to him overall.

 

So yes – Lester is the kind of ‘Ace’ pitcher that we’ve been looking for – and that I’ve personally been advocating for.

Andrew Miller is likewise a “rental” guy, and is the premier lefty-reliever in baseball this season.  Getting both would be pretty unbelievable… and expensive.  But together they would cement this rotation and the bullpen – and probably be sufficient to carry this team into the playoffs.

 

Supply and Demand

Given the competition, Lucas Sims would definitely have to be in the mix… even for just a two month guarantee.  Yes, Atlanta could entertain an extension offer, but as a free agent, Lester would have the chance for a $100-125 million deal awaiting him – waters that I doubt the Braves would wade into.

So that’s a really tough call:  one year (maybe) in exchange for 6-7 years of Lucas Sims, et al.  The Cardinals are already on record as suggesting that would rather keep Taveras… but then he’s also nearly in the majors to stay.  Pitchers are another matter… and Sims is currently in Lynchburg (High A Carolina League), and thus at least a couple of years away.

 

I would still rather have  David Price, given (a) the extra year of contractual control, and (b) his chances of actually signing an extension deal with Atlanta (he’s from Murfreesboro, TN).  But right now his Rays are on a tear, and the chances of prying him away from Tampa Bay are diminishing by the day.  Also, the price to get him should be lower after this off-season… or lower still once he becomes a free agent after 2015.

So in that scenario, Lester might be the best option available… if you’re going after starting pitching and want to keep him away from your rivals in the process.

 

ONE MORE THING:  Lester is scheduled to start on Wednesday (against Toronto, oddly enough).  MY BET:  He doesn’t make that start and is traded either by tomorrow or Thursday.

 

Here’s where I say things like “I’m glad I’m not Frank Wren.”

Stay tuned.

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