In case your Internet was broken on Tuesday, the Boston Red Sox are shopping Jon Lester with the trade deadline approaching midday Thursday. He's a free agent after this season and is looking for market value on his next contract, so he will be a two-month rental for whoever acquires him. With David Price likely staying put on the resurgent Rays, Lester is now the best starting pitcher on the market. And, more relevantly, the Oakland Athletics have been mentioned among the teams in the running to land him, according to Sean McAdam of CSN New England.
For a more analytical look at Lester:
For a more analytical look at Lester:
If you're not familiar with Lester, he is a fantastic pitcher. The 30-year-old's career stats are good-but-not-great, but you have to look a bit deeper to see why everyone is so crazy about him. He put up three monster seasons from 2008-2010, ran hot and cold for a few years, and is now in the middle of by far his career year -- 2.52 ERA (next-best was 3.21 in '08), 155 ERA+ (next-best was 144, in '08), more than a strikeout per inning, and a 4.66 strikeout-to-walk ratio (next-best was 3.52 in '09). He is currently second in MLB in fWAR among all pitchers, behind only Felix Hernandez. He also owns two World Series rings, from '07 and '13, and in three career World Series starts he is 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA (one run in 21 inning). Put another way, he's made three WS starts and in two of them he didn't allow a run. Oh, and he's left-handed. Those are the reasons why everyone and their mother's team wants to acquire him. And, he has reportedly been scratched from his start on Wednesday, so it's looking mighty likely that he's going somewhere.
Let's get right to the point. The A's are not getting Lester. It's just not going to happen. If it does, then I guess I'll be the first baseball writer to ever be wrong about something, but I'm willing to take that chance. The Sox are said to be looking for a "premium prospect," something in the vein of Addison Russell. You may notice that the A's no longer have Russell, because they already traded him for other starting pitching. They have nothing remotely close to the premium prospect that Boston is supposedly looking for, but when you're the best team in baseball you inquire about everyone and get included in every possible rumor.
Honestly, I don't know what Boston will end up getting for Lester. I don't think that any teams are willing to part with an elite prospect for a two-month rental anymore, although the A's traded Russell for two short-term guys. If I were an affluent team like the Red Sox then I'd be more interested in an MLB-ready youngster with lots of team control who could contribute to a 2015 roster re-loaded through free agency. All I know is that whenever I see these mercenary deals go down at the deadline, the return is usually less than I thought it would be. But I find it exceedingly hard to believe that the A's can offer the best package over others like Toronto, the Dodgers, St. Louis, Seattle, Baltimore, Milwaukee or Atlanta (all included by McAdam), and I'm not even sure I want them to.
Yes, I want to win the 2014 World Series more than anything, and I will give up the next five years of competitive Oakland baseball to get it. And Lester would move the A's from "favorites" to "heavy favorites." But there's a part of me, a weird local pride, that wants to see the A's win it. Not some ringer who just came in here to finish the job. It wouldn't have the same feeling if I spent the rest of my life watching highlights of some guy who only made 10 career starts for the team clinching the title I waited so long to get with my scrappy Moneyball teams. If the headlines were all about Lester and not about Sonny Gray and Sean Doolittle. If the only way to exorcise the playoff demons was to sell my soul. This line of thought is so stupid that I can't even believe I'm writing it, but it's my gut reaction to the rumors. Thanks, but no thanks. We've got this.
Of course, if the trade somehow went down, I'm sure you'd see me change my tune and cheer Lester as if he had been born in Alameda County and gone to high school with me before being drafted by and ultimately retiring with the A's. But right now, from the safety of my belief that this won't happen anyway, it's just the way I feel. I don't feel the same way about Samardzija, who is still signed for next year, or Hammel, who is a back-end starter; teams get new back-end starters late in seasons all the time, and Shark and Hammel will be spending a full half of 2014 here. I also won't feel this way if the A's add a decent-but-not-star second baseman to shore things up, like they did with Stephen Drew in 2012 or Alberto Callaspo in 2013; tinkering with the roster is OK and is a constant reality anyway. But a mercenary ace? It just feels dirty. It feels like what the Yankees or Angels would do to win. It's just not how I was raised.
So there you go, my weird, illogical opinion on high-profile deadline deals in general and this one in particular. This is already the best team in MLB, and if it ain't broke don't fix it. Does anyone else out there feel the same way? Lester is a stud and he would be a huge get for the A's, but is that an avenue you even want to take if it becomes a real option? Let's duke it out in the comments!