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Trade Rumors: Athletics in the mix for Jon Lester

Oakland is one of six clubs still in on Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester.

The A's new #1 starter?
The A's new #1 starter?
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Lester Scratched From Tomorrow's Start

A source with direct knowledge of the situation says that there are six clubs still in on Lester, per Edes (via Twitter): the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Athletics.

By Steve Adams (July 29, 2014)

2.52era / 2.62fip. $13 million salary for 2014 or about $4.25 million to the A's.  Stats: Fangraphs.  

Scouting report: Very athletic left-hander. Four-seam fastball sits around 93-95 mph and tops out around 97 mph. Also has a two-seamer with good movement. Lester also utilizes an above-average change-up, an 11-to-5 curve-ball that sits in the high-70s, and a nice cutter. Easy delivery motion with good explosion.

Why would the A's be in on Lester after already trading for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel?

For a more subjective look at Lester:

Does the mediocre nature of the Addison Russell trade results to date have anything to do with the A's interest? Probably. If Shark pitches like an ace (he hasn't) or Hammel pitches like someone who doesn't have a 7.11era (he has) the A's probably roll with them and call it a year.

However since that trade, Jesse Chavez (5.20era in July, five out of his last six starts have been less than 6ip) has also looked less and less like someone you want as a starter or especially a #4 starter in the playoffs. And make no mistake;  the playoffs is what the Shark trade was and a Lester trade would be all about.

After Felix Hernandez, Lester is #2 in MLB with 4.6 fWAR. That is true ace territory, something the A's probably still lack with their three #2's. Sonny Gray (2.7 WAR), Scott Kazmir (2.5), and Shark (2.4). Lester also has three prior 5+ WAR seasons under his belt. He is no flash in the pan.  Any team would better their chances with him starting and he matches up with any of the top Aces in baseball be that in Detroit, Seattle, St. Louis or L.A.

Sonny Gray's two playoff games in 2013 aside, none of the other A's starters are proven playoff performers. Lester is a proven playoff performer with a 2.11 era over 76 innings over four different post-seasons. (4-1 and a 1.5 ish era in the 2013 playoffs). Shark was a nice get but Lester is better. Much better.

Potential playoff rotation:

(ERA + FIP) / 2
Jon Lester 2.57
Sonny Gray 2.92
Scott Kazmir 2.81
Shark 3.13
Average 2.86

Do the A's have the trade ammunition?

Unlike the Shark, Lester is a free agent after this year. This trade would be for 1/3rd of a season as opposed to the 1.5 seasons of the Shark. Lester should be cheaper to acquire. Unlike the Cub's,  Boston is looking to be competitive next year. Landing a B+ prospect ( what the other five teams will be bringing to the trade table) may not be what the Sox are mainly looking for. Ready to go starting pitching is.

Boston has only two proven starters coming back for sure in 2015 (Clay Buchholz (2017) and John Lackey (2015). Drew Pomeranz or Tommy Milone would probably be the centerpiece with a healthy starting pitching prospect like Seth Streich being the secondary piece and maybe injured starter Raul Alacantara (whom the A's stole from Boston in the first place) a PTBNL.

If the A's could get a Lester without giving up Russell, why didn't they do that in the first place?

Lester wasn't available then, Price was probably more expensive in prospects (and 2015 salary) and the A's wanted to make an early double move.

It may not have worked out "great" so far but the A's quite simply are not going to cry over spilt milk and will move on to plan B if they can. It just so happens plan B is probably better than plan A.

The A's could now re-flip Hammel if they want (probably for much less than he cost a month ago) to one of the many other N.L. teams happy for any amount of starting pitching and still have Jesse Chavez and one of Pomeranz/Milone as their #5-6 starters.

Conclusion: Carpe Diem x 2.

It would be a bold move by the only team so far this year to have made a bold move.  I also think it would be much more effective at winning playoff games and playoff series than any second baseman available could be as Lester is easily the best player available.