Red Sox are soliciting offers for Jon Lester
“Oh, we have a contingency plan, sure,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday.
A National League executive said the Sox are not simply exploring the trade market; they are collecting offers and seem intent on trading on Lester for a package of players that would include two high-end prospects.
The Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Marlins, and Pirates all have been linked to the discussions. The Sox would even consider teams in the American League East outside of the Yankees. The Blue Jays and Orioles have interest.
With so many teams involved, the Red Sox could take the bidding right to the deadline to exact the greatest return.
Lester, his future uncertain, continued to take the high road in what may be his final days with the team by reaching out to fans.
“Thanks for the love y’all! Grateful for everyday I get to wake up a Red Sox! This game can be uncertain at times, just gotta roll with it!” he wrote on Twitter before going out to play catch at Fenway Park.
Lester stood talking with Farrell in shallow right field during batting practice. The two also spoke earlier in the day about the possibility of Lester being traded.
For Farrell, it is an awkward situation. He first worked with Lester in 2007 as a pitching coach and helped guide the pitcher in his return from lymphoma.
Lester won the deciding game of the World Series that season and went on to become an All-Star under Farrell’s guidance. When Farrell returned as manager in 2013, Lester was one of his strongest supporters in the clubhouse and that was reflected in his performance on the mound.
Lester is 25-15 with a 3.26 earned run average over the last two seasons, making every start. Lester dominated the postseason last fall, going 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA and winning two games in the World Series.
The two men share a bond that goes beyond the field and Farrell has been an advocate for retaining Lester.
“Someone asked me a question earlier about having experienced a lot of successes, a lot of challenges [together],” Farrell said. “My only response is I hope there are many more to experience with him.
“The reality of the game is what we’re living right now in certain individual cases. I’m always optimistic and hopeful that he’ll remain in the Red Sox uniform.”
General manager Ben Cherington has not commented specifically on Lester other than to say the Red Sox were open to discussing any player.
As the deadline draws closer and the Red Sox contemplate decisions that could change the direction of the franchise, special assistant to the GM Jason Varitek and senior adviser Bill James were spotted at Fenway Park.
Red Sox executives have grown fond in recent weeks of saying their goal is for the team to be become as good as it can as quickly as it can. Farrell was asked how trading the team’s best starter and a clubhouse leader would help accomplish that goal.
“Well, he’s not traded yet,” Farrell said. “If he is traded, that’s probably a question better answered by Ben because no one knows what the return for any player if they’re traded is going to bring.”
It made sense that the Sox elected not to have Lester make the Wednesday start. Any team acquiring Lester would have wanted him to be available to start within a day or two and one final start for the Red Sox would have served only to decrease his potential impact for a contender. There was also the risk of injury.
Lester will be a free agent after the season, which restricts his value to some degree. But his performance this season and history of postseason success helps to negate that.
Yahoo! Sports reported that the Pittsburgh Pirates could emerge as contenders for Lester. The Pirates are two games out in the National League Central and have several top prospects including outfielders Josh Bell, Austin Meadows, and Harold Ramirez.
Cherington has a close working relationship with Pirates GM Neal Huntington and the teams have made four trades since 2012.
The Dodgers and Marlins also have well-regarded prospects. Although the Red Sox lack organizational depth in the outfield, they are said to be treating the Lester discussions like the amateur draft and want the best players available.