John Lackey Rumors

Stark’s Latest: Price, Lee, Lackey, O’s, Yanks, Payroll Limits

Here’s the latest from ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark:

  • The Rays are still holding onto David Price unless and until an offer forces a move. “I’d say they’re kind of where they were all winter,” said a competing executive. “Yeah, they’d trade him. But you’ve got to make it so they can’t say no.”
  • Though both sides explored the possibility, the Cardinals and Phillies did not match up on a potential Cliff Lee deal. With Philly seeking a “major prospect” in return, the Cards ultimately turned elsewhere and added Justin Masterson. While St. Louis seemed the best fit for a pre-deadline deal with Lee, Philadelphia still is looking to see if the lefty can be moved before August.
  • The Red Sox are encountering some skepticism from trade partners that John Lackey will play for the league minimum rate next year, as provided by his contract. Of course, that provision makes up a huge portion of Lackey’s trade value, as he would not only contribute down the stretch in 2014 but looks like a very solid rotation piece at a replacement-level price for 2015.
  • The Orioles seem to be focusing more on adding a reliever at this point than a starter, says Stark. Baltimore has been liked to Neal Cotts of the Rangers and Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks, neither of whom is a pure LOOGY.
  • In search of bullpen help, the Yankees have inquired into Joaquin Benoit of the Padres, James Russell of the Cubs, and Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies. The club has also checked on outfielders Marlon Byrd of the Phillies and Dayan Viciedo of the White Sox.
  • The Blue JaysBraves, and Royals are telling teams they cannot add significant payroll in a trade, though Kansas City could take on a starter who would slot in place of James Shields next year.

Chances Of Lackey Trade Are “Very Good”

3:00pm: The Indians are indeed interested in Lackey, tweets Rosenthal. Two teams that aren’t in play, he adds, are the Angels and Brewers.

12:01pm: There’s now a “very good chance” that the Red Sox will trade John Lackey as well as Jon Lester, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter). Lackey has been known to be available for days, but there had also been speculation that Boston could work out some form of extension with the right-hander.

Lackey’s five-year, $82.5MM contract with the Red Sox contained a clause that gave Boston a 2015 club option at the league minimum in the event that he missed significant time with an elbow injury. A torn ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery triggered that clause, making Lackey a highly appealing trade chip even to teams with the most modest of payrolls.

Lackey will likely want an extension regardless of where he ends up, Rosenthal adds (Twitter links), but that’s not necessarily an unappealing concept for teams in search of a starter that can be controlled beyond 2014. Rosenthal lists the Indians and Marlins as two such clubs.

The Dodgers and Royals have shown interest in Lackey already, and reports yesterday indicated that the Marlins may prefer Lackey to Lester, as the asking price could be lesser. However, the asking price on Lackey isn’t exactly tame, as ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported yesterday that Boston wants an established big league starter in return (presumably, one with team control beyond 2015). Indeed, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald tweets, the BoSox aren’t likely to move both Lackey and Lester without getting starting pitching in return.

In 326 2/3 innings dating back to last season, Lackey has reestablished himself as a solid big league starter. He’s posted a 3.55 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9, averaging nearly 6 2/3 innings per outing.


Quick Hits: Cards, Fish, Willingham, Sox, Kemp, Lindstrom

It’s been a busy afternoon, but no deals have gone down; let’s round up some worthwhile recent news and rumors as the market heats up:

  • The Cardinals are in need of a starter for Saturday, and manager Mike Matheny says that it could go to an arm that is not currently in the organization, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Philadelphia has sent a scout to watch the Cardinals’ top minor league affiliate, Goold adds. As he indicates, it is easy to see the Cards showing interest in the Phillies‘ Cole Hamels given his high-end talent and extended team control. On the other hand, a recent report suggests that the Phils have yet to go very far down the line in discussing Hamels, and the club is said to be looking for an overwhelming return to part with the lefty.
  • For the Marlins, the desire to add a top-end starter does not mean that the team will part with any core MLB players, including outfielder Christian Yelich, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Additionally, Miami remains more interested in adding an arm that it can control past this season. The club therefore might be more inclined to pursue John Lackey than Jon Lester from the Red Sox, and would have “heavy interest” if David Price of the Rays were to be made available. Frisaro says the club is working hard to make one or two deals by the trade deadline.
  • The Mariners are currently discussing outfielder Josh Willingham with the Twins, sources tell Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The sides were connected a few weeks back by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, and Seattle has long been said to be seeking a right-handed bat for the outfield. Also still in the mix on Willingham are the Yankees, among other teams including Seattle, reports Heyman.
  • Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp interests the Red Sox whether or not he would be involved in a hypothetical deal for Lester, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com (Twitter links). Boston has scouted him on and off over the last month, says Edes, and would consider adding him over the offseason if nothing comes to pass this summer.
  • The Rangers are working to deal outfielder Alex Rios, a source with a team interested in a bat tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). Rios, who was off to a hot start, struggled mightily in June and but has improved to a .304/.317/.405 line for the month of July.
  • White Sox reliever Matt Lindstrom is nearing a rehab stint, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin reports on Twitter. The 34-year-old owns a 3.32 ERA through 19 innings, and could be a possible August trade chip if he can return healthy. He is playing on a $4MM salary this year before hitting the open market.


Stark’s Latest: Lester, Burnett, Lee, Kennedy, Lackey, Suzuki

Jon Lester remains the most-discussed name at the moment, and ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark contributes his take after discussing the lefty with several club executives who will not be involved in any deals. He discusses the possibility of eight teams going after Lester: the Dodgers, Cardinals, Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, and Pirates. Though Los Angeles still seems unwilling to part with any of its premium prospects, Stark tabs them the likeliest landing spot.

Of course, Stark also provides a number of important updates from elsewhere in the market in his latest post. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Talks between the Phillies and Pirates regarding A.J. Burnett are “all but dead,” writes Stark. The issue is that Burnett has been unwilling to give an assurance that he would not pick up his player option for next season, creating too much financial uncertainty for Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the Phillies have not yet abandoned hope of dealing fellow starter Cliff Lee before the deadline, though an official says that they want significant prospects in return.
  • Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if David Price of the Rays or Ian Kennedy of the Padres are moved, with Stark writing that the former will be a last-minute decision and the latter remains a 50-50 proposition. With the GM seat still unfilled in San Diego, and given that Kennedy remains under control for next year, the club is unwilling to move him unless the return includes a starter capable of stepping into the rotation along with another prospect.
  • The Red Sox are asking for a strong return on John Lackey in discussions. The club wants an established major league starter, presumably with additional control. If that is part of the return on Lester, however, the club might be open to more flexibility in a return for Lackey.
  • The Twins are telling inquiring clubs that they have not yet given up on extending Kurt Suzuki, and could keep him past the deadline. If that occurs, the team could still consider August deals, though the waiver process (and Suzuki’s cheap contract) could prove a hindrance.
  • Scouting trips can obviously be undertaken for many purposes, but Stark provides a few interesting ones to note: The Rangers have scouted the Nationals‘ top affiliate this weekend; though rumors quickly died down, Washington was said to have inquired about Adrian Beltre. The White Sox are looking at the affiliates of the YankeesBlue Jays, and Red Sox as they consider offers for John Danks. And the Red Sox have scouted the Triple-A affiliate of the Braves, who are said to be very interested in lefty Andrew Miller.

AL East Rumors: Lackey, Blue Jays, Masterson

The Red Sox are willing to move one or both of John Lackey and Jon Lester, depending on the returns, sources tell WEEI’s Alex Speier. However, while the club is willing to move Lester within the division because he is a free agent at season’s end, they’re less inclined to move Lackey within the division, as he is controlled through 2015.

Here’s more on Lackey and the AL East…

  • In a second piece, Speier writes that it will be difficult for the Sox to move Lackey, though, as he’s expressed an understandable hesitance to pitch at the league minimum next year, and it would leave the Red Sox with little to no stability in their rotation. Speier suggests a one-year, $16.5MM extension (the AAV of Lackey’s current deal, prior to his league-minimum option kicking in), which could feel fair to both clubs. Essentially, it would amount to a two-year, $17MM deal, of course.
  • A trade of Lester could impact Lackey’s willingness to return to the Red Sox, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Lackey and Lester are close, and Rosenthal suggests that Lackey may not want to sign an extension or play for $500K next year if Lester is gone.
  • Yesterday’s acquisition of Danny Valencia may prove to be the biggest move that GM Alex Anthopoulos makes prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, writes Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. The Blue Jays are getting contributions from two of their biggest trade chips — Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman — and the platoon of Steven Tolleson and Munenori Kawasaki has hit well to this point. Anthopoulos is still looking for a right-handed platoon partner for Adam Lind, but Nolan Reimold could fill that void. It seems to me that it’s a stretch to count on that many question marks, but Kennedy speculates that the team’s payroll limitations may be more significant than Anthopoulos has admitted to the public. Kennedy runs down the pros and cons of some speculative Jays targets.
  • While Justin Masterson is similar to Yankees acquisitions Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley — all are formerly productive players with sizable salaries and diminished production in 2014 — the Yanks aren’t interested in acquiring him, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman points out that teams could be more open to acquiring Masterson in August if he clears waivers and begins pitching better following a DL stint, but the Indians, who are still in the Wild Card hunt, may just hang onto him then. Cleveland is “very willing” to move Masterson, who has reportedly drawn trade interest from other clubs.

Edes On Lester, Miller, Kemp, Lackey

The Red Sox are currently weighing offers on Jon Lester and Andrew Miller, a source tells Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. However, as of late last night, there was a less than 50 percent chance that the Sox trade Lester, and the same holds true for Miller based on current talks. Edes’ source did note that he anticipates offers for each lefty will improve as the deadline draws nearer.

Regarding the club’s reported interest in Matt Kemp, Edes does hear that the Sox would consider Kemp, but a lot of money would need to be heading Boston’s way. At this point, talks with the Dodgers haven’t even gotten to the point where names have been swapped. (Weekend reports indicated that a Lester/Kemp framework would be possible if the Dodgers included other pieces.) The Dodgers have told some teams that they’d prefer to hang onto Kemp, but a source insisted to Edes that Kemp is still in play.

The Dodgers do like Miller as well, and reports last night indicated that they’re in on John Lackey also. Those reports indicated that Boston is “getting hit hard” on both Lackey and Lester, and Edes has another team to add to the Lackey mix: the Royals. Kansas City makes plenty of sense for Lackey, given the fact that he has a club option at the league minimum next year (triggered by an injury clause in his contract). That has to hold great appeal for the Royals, who have noted payroll limitations. The remaining $5.25MM on his 2014 salary, however, could be problematic.


Dodgers Interested In John Lackey

The Dodgers are investigating every top available starter, including Red Sox veteran John Lackey, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).  Of course, the Dodgers are also looking into the likes of Cole Hamels, David Price, and Lackey’s teammate, Jon Lester.

Lackey’s Tommy John surgery in 2012 triggered a $500K option for the 2015 season due to an injury clause in his contract, so he could provide a boost for the Dodgers beyond this season.  In 21 starts this season, Lackey owns a 3.60 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9.  Meanwhile, Lackey’s xFIP of 3.35 also suggests that he’s throwing the ball well.

Rosenthal reported earlier today that Boston is getting “hit hard” on both Lester and Lackey.  Lester would likely require a hefty trade package including a top prospect but Lackey represents a more affordable option for teams chatting with the Red Sox.


Mariners, Orioles Have Inquired On Lester

Jon Lester has emerged as perhaps the most sought after name on the trade market, and there will be plenty of buzz about him in the next three days. We’ll track all of today’s Lester updates in this post…

  • The Red Sox are open to trading both Lester and Lackey for the right returns, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Multiple major league sources tell Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that it looks as though the Red Sox’s decision to trade Lester will most likely be made close to the 3pm CT deadline on July 31st, with the likelihood of a deal gaining steam.  One source says the Red Sox are unlikely to re-engage in talks with Lester’s representatives prior to the deadline.
  • The Red Sox, major league sources tell Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe, have been informed what kind of contract Lester is seeking and that has coincided with the team putting its ace on the trade market.
  • The Red Sox are getting “hit hard” on both Lester and John Lackey, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link), and teams within the AL East are among those showing interest. Lackey’s contract contains a club option for the league minimum in 2015 that triggered after he missed a year of his current contract due to Tommy John surgery.
  • Indeed, Rosenthal’s colleague Jon Paul Morosi tweets that the Orioles have reached out to Boston to express interest in Lester. Baltimore certainly has the pitching depth to make a push for Lester, although they’ve shown a past reluctance to part with any of Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Hunter Harvey or Eduardo Rodriguez.
  • Rosenthal also tweets that the Mariners have inquired on Lester, who is a native of Tacoma. The M’s have been connected to David Price since the offseason, but Lester would come with a slightly lower cost of acquisition given his proximity to free agency. Seattle has plenty of minor league talent as well, though top pitching prospects Taijuan Walker and James Paxton have both dealt with injuries in 2014.

AL East Notes: Lester, Sox, Lackey, Soria, Yanks, Rays

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said on WEEI radio’s Dennis and Callahan show today that extension talks with ace Jon Lester have been tabled until the offseason. Lucchino reminded that Lester’s preference is to avoid negotiating during the season. Lester told reporters, including the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham, that he wasn’t surprised to hear Lucchino’s comments (Twitter link). However, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com does hear from a source that Lester would be open to signing a midseason deal if the Sox were to offer market value for his services right now. The other possibility for Lester could be a trade, if the Sox fall further back in the East — a concept which Lester admits he has considered (via the Globe’s Nick Cafardo). Lester said if it came to that, he wouldn’t harbor any ill feelings toward the organization.

Here’s more on the BoSox and the AL East…

  • Lucchino also said on WEEI that he expects the Red Sox to be active at the trade deadline, though he noted that nearing the deadline with a sub-.500 record is new territory for the Sox. Asked about buying or selling, Lucchino referred to the trade deadline as a “binary process” and implied that the Sox could do some of both.
  • Also of note from Lucchino is that the Red Sox plan to engage John Lackey in extension talks after the season. Lackey’s Tommy John surgery in 2012 triggered a $500K option for the 2015 season due to an injury clause in his contract. Lucchino is quoted: “I think that there will be some contract negotiations with him probably at the end of the year as well and we’€™ll see what his frame of mind is with respect to longer-term contracts.”
  • The Blue Jays were in the mix for Joakim Soria before the Rangers traded him to the Tigers, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Talks never became too serious or progressed to the stage where offers were exchanged, however.
  • Morosi also notes that the Yankees are still looking to add a starter to their ranks (Twitter link). Earlier today, he noted that the Yanks scouted Ian Kennedy‘s last start, though reports from earlier today indicated that the Padres would need to be “overwhelmed” to move him.
  • Rays president Matt Silverman tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that there are some “obvious flaws” with the Competitive Balance Lottery, in which the Rays were not awarded a pick yesterday. As Topkin notes, seemingly less-needing teams such as the Cardinals, Orioles and Rockies all received picks. Silverman went on to say, however, that even if the lottery were better constructed, it would “only scratch the surface of the competitive balance issues plaguing baseball.”

AL East Notes: Price, Zobrist, Lackey, Lester

David Price is trying to just focus on pitching amidst the many trade rumors surrounding him, and the Rays ace admitted to being a bit nervous when he was recently summoned from a pre-start hot tub soak to Joe Maddon’s office.  Price told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he was wondering if the long-rumored deal had finally come, but upon arriving at Maddon’s office, the skipper merely wanted to congratulate Price on making the All-Star team.  Topkin’s piece quotes Price and several other Rays on how everyone is handling all the trade buzz surrounding the star left-hander.

Here’s some more news from around the AL East…

  • The Giants are considered to be the team most interested in Ben Zobrist, Marc Topkin reports, with the Reds and Mariners among other teams also intrigued by the 33-year-old.  Zobrist would help the Giants and Reds at second base while the versatile 33-year-old would fit in Seattle as a shortstop or right fielder since Robinson Cano has the keystone locked up for the M’s.
  • The Red Sox have over $72MM coming off the books this offseason and will have lots of payroll flexibility to get the team back in contention, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.  While the Sox seem adverse to signing veteran free agents to major contracts, there’s still plenty of payroll space for moves like re-signing Jon Lester.  The Sox are still committed to their young prospect base, though Cafardo notes that the club could trade from this minor depth to acquire a more expensive proven Major Leaguer.
  • John Lackey worries that the negotiations between Lester and the Red Sox have resembled his own extension talks with the Angels, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes.  Lackey and the Halos tabled talks during Spring Training of Lackey’s final contract year in 2009 and then the Angels were outbid on the open market by the Sox.  Now, Boston could be the ones who lose their ace due to another aggressive bidder if Lester ends up testing free agency.  “(The Red Sox) messed up in spring training for sure. The price of gas is going up every time (Lester) goes out there,” Lackey said.
  • Lackey also didn’t say whether he will approach the Red Sox about an extension, given that he’s under contract for a league minimum salary in 2015.  “I haven’t even thought that far ahead. I’m just worried about pitching right now, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the year,” the righty said.
  • Derek Jeter‘s retirement marks the end of the “Core Four” era for the Yankees, and ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand notes just how unlikely and special it was for the franchise to reach the postseason from every year, save one, from 1995-2012.