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Jon Lester Rumors
Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons appeared on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Show (audio link) to discuss a host of Red Sox topics earlier today, and in doing so he touched on quite a few Red Sox issues, as well as some issues pertaining to other teams around the AL. Here are some highlights from the interview, and readers can check out full quotes from Gammons in the transcription provided by WEEI’s Ryan Conor…
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is torn as to whether or not he should buy or sell at this year’s trade deadline. He’s had scouts looking at top prospects around the league, but the upcoming road trip will do a lot to determine their course of action. Gammons notes that he may even have to consider dealing Jon Lester if the team truly isn’t going to work out a new deal with him.
- The Rays’ recent surge in the standings has them holding off on selling pieces, Mariners sources told Gammons. Seattle thought they were closing in on a deal for Ben Zobrist, but they’ve since been told that the Rays plan to wait until the final 48 hours prior to the deadline before determining a course of action.
- One GM who contacted the Red Sox about Koji Uehara told Gammons that Cherington seems disinclined to even discuss the possibility of trading his closer. The Sox want to bring Uehara back in 2015 and have him close.
- Uehara hasn’t even been generating the most interest, Gammons hears. That distinction goes to Andrew Miller, who has “by far” been the subject of the most inquiries in Boston’s bullpen.
- Gammons hears that Lester told teammates that he’d have signed in Spring Training if the team had offered even one dollar more than Homer Bailey‘s six-year, $105MM contract. The Red Sox maintain that their four-year, $70MM offer was merely a starting point, not a final offer, as they didn’t want to start at $110MM and end up in “Max Scherzer” territory (referring to the six-year, $144MM which Scherzer rejected).
- That Scherzer offer, however, may be what Lester ultimately secures as a free agent, Gammons said. Two general managers have told Gammons that they expect Lester to sign for at least that much on the open market. “There’s a lot of money out there,” said one GM.
- Gammons can see the Sox pursuing James Shields on the free agent market, but he notes that it’s more important for the team to cast a wide net rather than have just one contingency plan for Lester. He lists Cole Hamels as another alternative, though he points out how difficult it would be to acquire Hamels, as Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. would need to hit a home run on the deal after failing to acquire useful pieces from the Cliff Lee-to-Seattle deal and some other missteps.
- Gammons feels that Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart, Mookie Betts, Rubby De La Rosa and Henry Owens are probably all untouchable in trades at this point.
A few weeks ago, the Orioles and Athletics discussed a trade that would’ve seen Jim Johnson return to Baltimore, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports (Twitter link). The Orioles were the ones who ultimately decided not to pursue the deal. The A’s have been having trouble finding a trade partner for the struggling reliever, as prior talks with the Marlins also fell through. Johnson wouldn’t have been returning to his old closer role with the O’s, as Zach Britton has been excellent as Baltimore’s ninth-inning stopper this season.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Rival officials see the Cardinals, Mariners and Dodgers as the three teams best positioned to acquire David Price from the Rays, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes. In the Insider-only piece, Olney looks at the pros and cons for each club in making a big trade for Price.
- Also from Olney (Twitter link), the concept of a trade for both Price and Evan Longoria has been mentioned by some in the Cardinals organization. There is “zero indication” such a deal has been discussed with the Rays, however, and the idea could well just be idle front office brainstorming.
- Signing Jon Lester to a contract extension may seem like a no-brainer on paper for the Red Sox, yet as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal illustrates, the team is worried by the long list of pitchers who suddenly declined or got injured in their early 30′s.
Here’s the latest on the Phillies and the numerous trade candidates on their roster…
- The Pirates had a scout watching A.J. Burnett‘s start on Friday, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The Bucs are known to be looking for starting pitching and Burnett is certainly a familiar quantity for them. The veteran righty has a partial no-trade clause, though it isn’t known if he can block a deal to Pittsburgh or if Burnett would welcome a deal to a contender that is still close to his Maryland home.
- Cole Hamels has received some trade interest from the Red Sox, though CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman wonders if this could be a tactic to restart extension talks with Jon Lester. Otherwise, Boston’s pursuit of Hamels doesn’t make a lot of sense to Heyman — the Sox could just re-sign Lester, rather than pay a similar price to Hamels through 2018 and have to give up prospects to the Phillies to get him.
- The Blue Jays and Yankees both scouted Cliff Lee‘s final rehab start, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes. Lee returns from the DL to start against the Giants tonight, and scouts from several teams are expected in attendance for Lee’s two scheduled starts prior to the July 31st deadline.
Red Sox hurler Jon Lester said today that extension talks could open back up “tomorrow or four months from now,” but Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the former option seems highly unlikely. In fact, says Heyman, the likeliest outcome now is that no serious run at a new deal will take place until after the season.
- Indeed, in other comments today, Lester sounded like he is fairly committed to waiting for further talks, as WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports. Lester says that his primary concern has been and remains the avoidance of distraction: “I’ve sat down and talked to Ben [Cherington] about that and they understand.” He continued: “Like I said before, I’ve expressed it to them, this is where I want to stay. Regardless of whether we do it tomorrow or we wait until the end of the season, this is where I want to be. Hopefully when we get to the end of the season we can figure something out and get it done.” Of course, as Lester noted, his desire may remain the same, but if he reaches free agency, the club will “just have more competition.”
- Lester tells Heyman that he was “thrown off” by the club’s recent efforts to re-open discussions during the year. “Since day one I was told [not negotiating in season] was the policy,” said Lester. “The way I think is pretty black and white. They tell me one thing, and we’re hell-bent on that [so to change gears] throws me off.”
- Though the lefty says that “the conversation had picked up” when the Red Sox reached out most recently, he noted that he “never received a [new] offer.” Boston was, however, at least willing to move its offer into the nine-figure range, Heyman reports. Now, team sources tell Heyman that the club understands and intends to honor Lester’s preference to table discussions for the time being.
- Regarding the initial reported four-year, $70MM offer made by the club, Lester expressed no hard feelings, as Bradford reports. “I don’t know if ‘exploited’ is the right word, but they’re business men,” he said. “They didn’t get to own the Boston Red Sox by being stupid with money. … I think they just took a shot and like you said, Larry and Ben and the collective group put that offer out there and that’s what they wanted to start at. We had plenty of talks after that as far as moving money and moving years, moving money, but never got to another offer … .”
- Lester also made clear that he understands his market position: “This is business and [they] have a business to run, and when you think about it, I have a business to run,” he said. “I have to run myself. I get it.” He emphasized that discussions have been “amicable,” saying that “I’ve had great, four or five, maybe six conversations with Ben over the last couple of months.”
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.
In his latest notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki ask for a trade this offseason. One friend of Tulo told Rosenthal, “I think the guy is going to lose his mind,” due to Colorado’s consistently poor results. He adds that this offseason will be a better time to deal Tulo or Carlos Gonzalez (with an eye on a larger rebuild), and while owner Dick Monfort may prefer to move CarGo, plenty of teams would make sense as a landing spot for Tulowitzki.
Here are some more highlights from Rosenthal’s newest work…
- One reason that Tulo could be particularly frustrated is with the Rockies‘ inability to build a competitive pitching staff at Coors Field. That’s no easy task, as Rosenthal notes, but it isn’t helped by the fact that free-agent pitchers simply don’t want to go there. While Jon Gray and Eddie Butler are promising, Butler joins a long list of currently injured Rockies starters. Additionally, rival scouts opined to Rosenthal that Colorado pitchers are poorly prepared: “They pitch not to hitters’ weaknesses but hitters strengths,” one scout told Rosenthal.
- The Dodgers talked with the Cubs about Jeff Samardzija before he was dealt to Oakland, but talks never got serious, as Los Angeles didn’t want to part with Joc Pederson or Corey Seager.
- Speaking of the Samardzija trade, Rosenthal hears that the deal was almost larger, as the Athletics at one point were trying to get Chicago to include Luis Valbuena in the deal as well. The A’s like Valbuena as a potential second-base upgrade and could rekindle talks for him later this month, but Chicago is reluctant to deal him, as he’s controlled through 2016, according to Rosenthal.
- The Cubs are receiving interest in lefty relievers James Russell and Wesley Wright, both of whom are more likely to be traded than Valbuena.
- Multiple reports today have indicated that the Cardinals have interest in Jake Peavy of the Red Sox, and Rosenthal reports that the two sides spoke a month ago, though not necessarily about Peavy. Boston has interest in the Cardinals’ young outfielders, and while St. Louis won’t deal Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty for Peavy, the teams could expand the deal to include other players and make something work. Rosenthal floats the idea of a scenario in which Allen Craig heads to Boston, though that appears to be speculation.
- In other Red Sox rumors, he writes that the Sox don’t necessarily want to move free agents they would like to re-sign after the season even if they end up as sellers. In other words, Jon Lester and Koji Uehara may stay put regardless of the team’s approach. Beyond that, the team’s chips are largely underwhelming, as Jonny Gomes, Burke Badenhop, Stephen Drew and A.J. Pierzynski either don’t have huge appeal to buyers or would net marginal returns at best.
With 10 wins in their last 12 games, the Rays have escaped the AL East basement and added another wrinkle to the David Price trade rumors. As Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times outlines, it still makes a lot of sense for the Rays to deal Price, given that the club needs to replenish its minor league stock and the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade only increases Price’s value as the best starter available. On the other hand, the Rays have already invested a record payroll into this year’s team and they could still make a comeback in a weak AL East, then wait until the offseason to explore trading Price.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- “The Yankees don’t have a strong interest in” reacquiring A.J. Burnett, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Burnett is a logical trade candidate if the Phillies decide to sell, though the veteran has a partial no-trade clause in his contract.
- Brandon McCarthy‘s tendency to allow home runs and grounders might be a problem given Yankee Stadium’s small dimensions and the Yankees‘ poor infield defense, but Andy Martino of the New York Daily News still feels the Bombers made a good move in acquiring the righty from the Diamondbacks. McCarthy’s peripherals indicate that he’s due to pitch better in the second half, and even if he’s only average, Martino still considers that an upgrade over the struggling Vidal Nuno.
- Before dealing for Rich Hill, the Angels showed some interest in acquiring Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow but felt that Breslow’s stuff had declined since last year, ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reports. Breslow posted a 1.81 ERA (though a 4.37 xFIP) over 59 2/3 relief innings for the Sox in 2013 but has struggled this season, managing only a 5.04 ERA and almost as many walks (20) as strikeouts (21) over 30 1/3 innings. The southpaw is also averaging just 87.8 mph on his fastball, down significantly from his 89.9 mph average last year.
- Also from Edes’ piece, he lists several Red Sox veterans who could be traded this summer now that Boston is on the brink of falling out of contention.
- While it may not seem likely Jon Lester and the Red Sox will work out a new contract before Lester hits free agency, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reminds us that Cole Hamels and the Phillies were in a similar situation two years ago and agreed on a midseason extension. Lester has been unwilling to negotiate during the year for fear of distractions, though it was recently reported that he would be open to hearing an offer if it led to a quick signing process. (One would think he’d be very quick to agree if the Sox presented Lester with the six-year/$144MM deal the Phillies gave Hamels, though I strongly doubt Boston would offer that much.)
- The Blue Jays have done a poor job of drafting and developing position players over the last decade-plus, Mike Rutsey of the Toronto Sun writes, a problem that has been underscored by the lack of depth available to fill in for several injured Jays regulars.
Recent reports have fluctuated as to the plausibility of an in-season extension between the two sides. After we learned that the club intended to make a final run at a deal, a later report indicated that the lefty prefers to avoid the distraction of talks during a campaign. It now appears that he is not entirely unwilling to talk contract, so long as the side effects can be minimized.
Bradford writes that Lester might be inclined to allow a re-opening of discussions if the team ups its offer to the five-year, $120MM range. That would represent a major jump up from the last reported offer, a four-year, $70MM price that the club has since characterized as a starting point. As Bradford notes, that would land in the neighborhood of the Cole Hamels extension (six years, $144M), which was signed under somewhat similar circumstances.
Here’s the latest from Fenway Park…
- Jon Lester has told the Red Sox that he would like to hold off contract talks until the season is over, and it appears that both parties will wait until October to re-open negotiations, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. Lester has repeatedly said that he feels in-season talks are a distraction, though the Sox reportedly were open to increasing their last contract offer.
- Both sides still have “a strong interest” in reaching an extension and continuing Lester’s tenure in Boston, though naturally many teams would be interested in Lester’s services. Heyman notes that the Yankees would have particular interest in adding the veteran left-hander.
- Andrew Miller wants to stay with the Sox beyond this season, but the pending free agent tells Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that he isn’t thinking about either a new contract or the possibility of being traded before the deadline. Miller said his representatives haven’t talked about an extension aside from some “very, very minor discussion in spring training that mostly stemmed from us not being able to agree on arbitration.” After strong performances in 2012-13, Miller is having his best season yet in Boston, posting a 2.48 ERA, 5.5 K/BB rate and a superb 15.2 K/9 over 32 2/3 IP.
- GM Ben Cherington made three offseason mistakes that hurt the Red Sox this year, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Not making an earlier extension offer to Lester was one, in Lauber’s opinion, and the Sox also erred in counting too much on the injury-prone Shane Victorino and the unproven Will Middlebrooks to be everyday players.
ESPN’s Buster Olney thinks that extension talks between the Red Sox and Jon Lester are “all but over” and the left-hander will hit free agency, he said Wednesday on the WEEI radio. Olney states that if the Sox had approached Lester and offered something like $100MM over five years in Spring Training, a deal may have been reached, but that didn’t happen. The only way for a long-term deal to be reached now, in Olney’s opinion, may be to go the route the Phillies went to extend Cole Hamels in 2012 — offer top-of-the-market value ($140-150MM) on a final midseason offer.
Here’s more on Lester and the AL East…
- Tim Britton of the Providence Journal spoke with Red Sox skipper John Farrell, who said that Lester has been a model example for how to handle a contract year. Lester has kept his contract discussions private and hasn’t created any sort of distraction or tension in the clubhouse, choosing instead to focus on the season at hand, according to Farrell.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons are noncommittal when asked what areas the Jays might seek to upgrade via trade this summer, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Anthopoulos noted that it would be very difficult for a club to acquire anyone from the Jays’ current 25-man roster unless they were acquiring an upgrade at that same position, and he also discussed Brett Lawrie‘s role with the team when he returns from the DL.
- In the video at the top of the previous link, Anthopoulos discussed the signings of top picks Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost. Anthopoulos touched on the team’s previous inability to sign first-rounders Tyler Beede and Phil Bickford, but noted that he wouldn’t draft a player he didn’t think he could sign. He added that Hoffman will head to Florida to continue his rehab from Tommy John, while Pentecost will eventually head to short-season Class A Vancouver (once he gets a passport). Anthopoulos also said that the team agreed to the full-slot value with Hoffman because they felt the “discount” on signing him was already built in to the fact that he fell to the No. 9 pick. He and his staff thought Hoffman had a chance to go in the Top 3 or even Top 2 picks before tearing his UCL.
- The Yankees have garnered a lot of attention with their international spending spree today, and Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com tweets that the team could spend as much as $30MM on international free agents, once the 100 percent overage tax is accounted for. That figure assumes that the team eventually agrees to terms with Colombian outfielder Bryan Emery, as many expect them to.