Jon Lester Rumors

Quick Hits: Draft, Astros, Lester, Souza

Since next year’s amateur draft will be the 50th June draft, Baseball America’s John Manuel thinks MLB should use the milestone to make changes to the draft’s structure.  Manuel’s suggestions include moving the draft to All-Star week, shortening it to 20 rounds and implementing a standardized pre-draft physical for every player that would help avoid another Brady Aiken situation.  Testing would take place during “a medical combine” that would get official gauges on other measurable physical skills and baseball abilities.

Here are some notes from around the sport…

  • The Astros will have a hard time finding 40-man roster spots for all of their promising Rule 5 draft-eligible prospects, Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper writes.  One interesting facet of the Jarred Cosart trade with the Marlins, Cooper notes, was that Houston freed up two extra 40-man roster spaces for use this winter.
  • The perception that Jon Lester and the Red Sox have some sort of tacit agreement that the southpaw will re-sign with the team this winter is “amusing,” ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only column.  Such an agreement would require a lot of trust between both sides, and after the way the Sox approached negotiations with their former ace, “the Lester-Red Sox relationship degraded into a business transaction.”  This doesn’t necessarily mean Lester won’t re-sign, Olney notes, just that Boston will need to greatly increase their contract offer in the offseason.
  • Also from Olney’s column, he lists nine starters who the Red Sox could pursue in trades this winter since the free agent pitching options (and/or prices) may not be to Boston’s liking.
  • When the Nationals were trying to acquire a reliever before the deadline, several teams asked for outfield Steven Souza in return, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports.  Souza, who received his second big league call-up today, has posted huge numbers in each of his last three minor league seasons, including a .354/.435/.601 slash line with 18 homers and 24 steals (of 31 chances) in 386 PA for Triple-A Syracuse this year.

Cafardo On Blue Jays, Kemp, Red Sox, Stanton

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the waiver deadline period could produce some significant deals around baseball. The Phillies probably won’t find deals for Jonathan Papelbon (contract) and Cliff Lee (health concerns plus contract) but A.J. Burnett could conceivably be moved.  Meanwhile, the Blue Jays continue to, as one executive said to Cafardo, “kick the tires on just about everything but never seem to do anything.”  More from today’s column..

  • The Red Sox may have been scouting Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, but their dialogue with the Dodgers was virtually nonexistent despite the constant rumors connecting the two.  The Dodgers, Cafardo writes, were never going to deal Kemp, who has been one of their best right-handed hitters.
  • The Dodgers were also never really in on Red Sox hurlers Jon Lester or John Lackey but really wanted Andrew Miller and came close to giving Boston one of their best pitching prospects for him.
  • It seems as if the Red Sox and other teams have finally come to the realization that Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton isn’t going anywhere and that could be a reason why the Red Sox obtained Yoenis Cespedes, who obviously isn’t as good but has the power and athleticism to improve. For now, he seems to feel that Miami is moving in the right direction and appears to be all in on staying with the Marlins.
  • The buzz around baseball is that the Cubs will be all in on Jon Lester.  Cubs president Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod were in Boston with Lester during his trying times.  Also, the Cubs will have to rebuild their rotation at some point and adding Lester would be a major, major step in that direction.

A’s Acquire Lester, Gomes; Cespedes To Boston

2:12pm: The A’s are paying $650K of Cespedes’ salary but are getting back $1.8MM from the Red Sox for Lester’s salary, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

11:35am: The teams have announced the trade. Nightengale tweets the exact figure that will be heading to Oakland: $650K.

10:09am: Dave Cameron of Fangraphs reports another wrinkle in the trade: Cespedes’ contract calls for him to be non-tendered at the end of his deal (if he is not first extended) in order to assure him early free agency, and he therefore is ineligible to receive a qualifying offer following the 2015 season (Twitter links).

9:14am: The Red Sox are sending under $1MM to the A’s in the trade, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Meanwhile, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America tweets that the value of the Competitive Balance pick that Boston receives will be roughly $800K.

8:54am: Passan tweets that Oakland is also sending a competitive balance draft pick to the Red Sox in the trade, and Boston is sending cash to Oakland. The A’s landed the second pick in Comp Round B in last week’s lottery.

8:49am: The Athletics have acquired Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes from the Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com (Twitter links). Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported that Lester had been traded to an unknown club, while Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com first connected the A’s and Lester earlier this week.

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The addition of Lester will give Oakland an incredibly formidable rotation for the balance of the regular season, but perhaps more importantly, in the playoffs. Lester, who has posted a 2.52 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 43.2 percent ground-ball rate, will join fellow trade acquisition Jeff Samardzija, free agent signing Scott Kazmir and homegrown star Sonny Gray atop Oakland’s rotation.

It’s possible that the struggles of Jason Hammel, acquired from the Cubs along with Samardzija back on July 4, prompted A’s GM Billy Beane to aggressively pursue another sizable rotation upgrade. While the loss of Cespedes will hurt Oakland’s lineup, the team can afford to part with some offense; the A’s rank first in the Majors in runs scored, sixth in on-base percentage and eighth in slugging percentage. Gomes won’t replace Cespedes’ power or his .256/.303/.464 batting line, but he’s a formidable opponent against lefties, having slashed .302/.400/.431 against southpaws in 2014 and .279/.379/.495 in his career.

Cespedes will bring the Red Sox a much-needed outfield bat, though he’s only under team control through the 2015 season due to a clause in his contract that allows him to forgo arbitration and hit the free agent market after his initial four-year term. He’s slated to earn $10.5MM next season — the same sum that he is owed in 2014. John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that Cespedes recently voiced a disinterest in playing center field with the A’s, but he did so through a teammate rather than by approaching manager Bob Melvin directly, which likely didn’t sit well with the team (Twitter links).

Yoenis Cespedes

The pair of blockbuster trades by Beane signifies a clear “all-in” philosophy on the 2014 season. Oakland has traded its best prospect (Addison Russell), a 2013 first-round pick (Billy McKinney) and one of its most dangerous bats (Cespedes) in an attempt at the most dominant pitching staff it can muster for the playoffs. There will be no compensation if (or, perhaps more appropriately given his likely price tag — when) Lester departs as a free agent, as baseball’s collective bargaining agreement prohibits players who did not spend the entire regular season on one team from receiving qualifying offers.

For the Red Sox, who hope to re-sign Lester as a free agent this offseason, this trade at least gives them a chance, perhaps a slight one, to have Lester and Cespedes on the same team in 2015 when the club takes another shot at contending. Beyond that, the addition of a draft pick is an interesting wrinkle, as it allows Boston to enjoy the best of both worlds, in a way. GM Ben Cherington could have kept Lester and extended a qualifying offer in hopes of recouping a draft pick if Lester signed elsewhere in free agency. Now, the Sox will get a bonus pick regardless (albeit a slightly later one), and they also are guaranteed a middle-of-the-order bat for the 2015 season. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Boston engage Cespedes in extension talks either, though that is nothing more than my own speculation at this juncture.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Athletics “Appear To Have Deal” For Lester

Red Sox ace Jon Lester has been traded, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter link).   The A’s appear to have a deal for Lester, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  WEEI’s Alex Speier adds that he’s trying to confirm, but he hears Lester and Jonny Gomes might be traded for Yoenis Cespedes.


Jon Lester Rumors: Thursday

As of late last night, the Pirates and the Cardinals were said to be the two teams most aggressively pursuing Jon Lester, who was scratched from Wednesday’s scheduled start. At one point yesterday, the Orioles looked close to a deal, but conflicting reports emerged on the severity of those negotiations. Regardless, Baltimore does seem to be in the mix, and a late-to-the-party mystery team was revealed to be the Athletics. We’ll keep track of the final stages of the Lester sweepstakes in this post…

Earlier Updates

  • Hall of Fame reporter Peter Gammons tells WEEI’s John Dennis and Gerry Callahan that the Dodgers aren’t in the mix to acquire Lester at this point (Twitter link).

Cardinals, Pirates Making Strongest Bids For Lester

Jon Lester has been scratched from his scheduled start tonight — a clear indicator that the Red Sox are looking to deal their ace. It briefly looked like the Orioles were close to a deal, but while those talks are serious, the deal isn’t close yet. Here’s the latest…

  • The Cardinals and Pirates are making the strongest bids for Lester at the moment, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report (Twitter link). The Dodgers also remain involved.

Earlier Updates

  • In a full article, Heyman writes that the A’s are the mystery team that has stepped into the Lester bidding. Nothing is close between the two sides at the moment, however.
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that a mystery team is becoming more involved.
  • Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports that the Athletics are in on Lester.
  • Via WEEI’s Alex Speier (on Twitter), manager John Farrell expects Lester to be in uniform with the Red Sox today.
  • The Cardinals‘ acquisition of Justin Masterson doesn’t necessarily take them out of the running for Lester, sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The Cards could still acquire Lester, though it may cost them Shelby Miller, Morosi adds in a second tweet.
  • The Marlins aren’t entirely out of the Lester sweepstakes, an AL executive familiar with the negotiations tells Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel. However, the Marlins won’t part with top prospect Andrew Heaney in a Lester deal (or a deal for any rental player).
  • The Cardinals and Dodgers are the two teams that are most aggressively competing for Lester’s services, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. They’re also the most aggressive clubs on David Price, though it’s far from a given that the Rays will move their own left-handed ace. Heyman hears similar things to yesterday’s reports regarding the Brewers and Orioles and says neither is in the mix at this point.
  • An NL GM told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he thinks the Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers and Mariners are the primary suitors for Lester heading into Wednesday (Twitter link).

Latest On Marlins’ Starting Pitching Search

9:17pm: The Marlins and White Sox have discussed a deal that would send Danks to Miami, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. The 29-year-old lefty is owed $28.5MM over the next two seasons under an extension signed before the 2012 season.

A veteran of eight MLB campaigns, Danks owns a 4.40 ERA this year through 131 innings. He has posted 6.3 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9, with a 40.6% groundball rate. On the positive side, Danks has seemingly returned to health; on the other, his fastball velocity is down and ERA estimators suggest that he may be performing at a slightly worse clip than his earned run mark shows.

2:22pm: John Danks is another possibility for the Marlins, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford (on Twitter). He also hears that Lackey could be in play still.

2:10pm: Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald hears that there’s “zero chance” of a trade that would send Lackey to the Marlins (Twitter link).

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports hears that the Marlins aren’t in on Lackey or Jon Lester at this time, as they prefer a younger starter with more control. They may prefer someone such as Tommy Milone or Wade Miley.

1:55pm: The Marlins and Red Sox are discussing a potential John Lackey trade, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link).

Reports earlier today indicated that there’s a “very good chance” that Lackey gets traded in advance of tomorrow’s deadline, and the Marlins have long been known to be in the market for a starting pitcher. Lackey would likely be of particular appeal to the cost-conscious Marlins, given the league-minimum club option for next season his contract.

Of course, FOX’s Ken Rosenthal reported earlier today that Lackey would probably want to discuss an extension with a new team rather than play at the league minimum in 2015. Lackey has pitched well this season, posting a 3.60 ERA with a 116-to-32 K/BB ratio and a 46.9 percent ground-ball rate in 137 1/3 innings of work.

The Marlins have remained competitive in the NL East despite losing ace Jose Fernandez for the season due to Tommy John surgery. In his stead, the team has leaned on Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi and Tom Koehler. Top prospect Andrew Heaney made a brief cameo but struggled before being optioned back to Triple-A.


Red Sox, Orioles Discussing Jon Lester

6:58pm: The Orioles did have discussions earlier on Lester, but talks have fizzled and there no longer appears to be a match, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.

For what it’s worth, Duquette did tell reporters that he had at least some interest in adding a frontline starter, which is something of a different tone than the club had set in recent days, as Connolly reports“We’d be interested in adding pitchers that could help us at the top of our rotation,” said Duquette. “Who wouldn’t be?” But Duquette did not waver from his prior statements that Baltimore is quite hesitant to part with young arms: “I think with our young pitchers we would be conservative, and we would try and give them a prolonged trial in the big leagues before we would trade them.”

3:58pm: Told of rumors that a deal could be close, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said that would be “news to him,” as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets.

3:50pm: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun hears differently than Abraham and Ghiroli, reporting that his sources indicate there’s nothing hot between the two sides at this time (Twitter link).

2:36pm: Abraham tweets that the two sides are in advanced discussions, but the Red Sox have alternatives, should Baltimore not meet their asking price. Ghiroli adds that Baltimore isn’t likely to part with Gausman in a Lester deal, but the two sides are still in serious discussions.

2:25pm: Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that a deal isn’t close at this time, although Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that talks are indeed heating up. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also tweets that nothing is close to finalization at this point, though that doesn’t preclude a deal from being reached. Andy Martino of the New York Daily news also hears that a deal is possible, but not close at this time (Twitter link).

Kubatko adds that Boston has been asking for Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy in talks.

2:20pm: Miguel Gonzalez could be heading to Boston in the deal, Ghiroli tweets. Clearly, he wouldn’t be the centerpiece of the trade.

2:16pm: The Orioles are in advanced talks that would send a pitcher to Boston in exchange for Jon Lester, reports Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (on Twitter). MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli tweets that the two sides are “close” to a deal.


Dodgers Backing Off Talks For Front-End Starters

The Dodgers are backing off their pursuit of front-end starting pitchers, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

The Dodgers have been heavily linked to Jon Lester and David Price, but it appears now that the latter may not be traded at all, and the asking price for the former has been said to be sky-high. Multiple reports have indicated a hesitancy on the Dodgers’ behalf to part with top prospects Joc Pederson and Corey Seager, and it seems unlikely that they’d be able to land an ace without including at least one of those prized young hitters.

The Dodgers are said to be interested in other starters, however, including John Lackey. They were also linked to Padres closer Joaquin Benoit earlier this morning.


Jon Lester Scratched From Tomorrow’s Start

Yesterday, reports indicated that the Orioles and Mariners have both inquired on Red Sox ace Jon Lester, but the Sox are likely to take any decision down to the wire. Earlier this morning, we noted that Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com heard there was less than a 50 percent chance Lester is dealt based on current talks, but offers are expected to increase in the coming days.

We’ll keep track of the rest of Tuesday’s Lester-related rumors in this post…

  • 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.
  • At present, the Red Sox have not received a trade proposal that the club is satisfied with, tweets Abraham. Multiple reports have indicated that no trade was in place when Lester was scratched from his start. At the moment, the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Pirates are all in the mix for Lester, tweets Rosenthal.
  • The Brewers are “not on” Lester, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Lester has been scratched from his start tomorrow, manager John Farrell tells reporters, including Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com (via Twitter). A rival GM tells Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter link) that it appears a deal will be in place tonight or tomorrow morning.
  • The division-rival Jays and Orioles seem out of the running for Lester at this point, per Bradford (Twitter links). A team source rejected the suggestion that the Dodgers would offer top prospect Joc Pederson for Lester, Saxon reports.
  • If the Pirates make a deal for Lester, it will have to occur before his start tomorrow so he can take his next turn for Pittsburgh, reports MLB.com’s Tom Singer. The Bucs are not willing to part with prospects Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham, Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, or Austin Meadows in a deal. But the team would consider dealing Alen Hanson or JaCoby Jones, and Singer says that outfielder Jose Tabata is a “wild card” in discussions, which could potentially expand to include Mike Carp or one of several Boston relievers.

Earlier Updates

  • The Red Sox were never given a “figure … on what it would have taken to sign” Lester, a source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). But while Lester and his representatives never formally made an offer to the Red Sox, both sides exchanged numbers and understood their respective parameters, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports.
  • The Red Sox have enhanced leverage regarding Lester because he could tip the balance in the NL Central, if not also the rest of the National League, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Sherman discusses the possibility of the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, and Brewers making the move for a rotation upgrade. Boston is “at least considering” attempting to deal and later re-sign its staff ace, Sherman adds.
  • Sox manager John Farrell says that the club still has Lester penciled in to start, but is prepared to use Brandon Workman in his place if Lester is dealt, as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets.
  • The Dodgers are not close to any major deals at the moment and adding Lester “appears … unlikely,” tweets Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Nevertheless, Los Angeles appears on top of the list of likeliest suitors for the Boston lefty, as handicapped by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
  • The Pirates are emerging as a dark-horse to acquire Lester, report Jeff Passan and Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. (John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times was first to link the Bucs with a possible move on Lester; subscription link.) One possible centerpiece of such a deal would be well-regarded prospect Josh Bell, the Yahoo writers add. A deal with the Pirates would not necessarily involve Bell, however, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com tweets.
  • The Red Sox are actively taking offers and preparing to deal Lester, a National League GM tells Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Abraham says it is difficult to see Lester taking his start tomorrow for Boston.
  • Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports (via Twitter) that the Blue Jays, Mariners, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Orioles and Marlins are all currently in on Lester. The Marlins are certainly a new addition to the mix, although that would line up with Buster Olney’s report from earlier today pegging them as a potential surprise candidate for some starting pitchers. Miami has a number of high-end prospects, and Lester’s remaining $4.48MM in salary might not be too overwhelming.
  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News hears the same as Olney did earlier this morning (Twitter link): There’s “little doubt” in the industry that Boston will move its ace. Rival clubs are expecting a trade.
  • Lester’s agent, Seth Levinson of ACES, denied a previous report that his client’s asking price in extension talks motivated the Red Sox to trade him, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. Unsurprisingly, Levinson shed no further light on any extension talks with Lester: “The discussions we had with the Red Sox were confidential and will remain that way,” Levinson said to Edes in an email.
  • Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com adds some new teams to the Lester mix, as he reports that the Athletics, Blue Jays and Braves have all called to inquire on the BoSox ace. Of those teams, Toronto is being the most aggressive in its pursuit, a source tells McAdam. The Sox are willing to move him to the division-rival Jays or Orioles, according to McAdam’s source. Boston is still seeking multiple prospects in return, specifically one elite prospect — McAdam uses Oscar Taveras, Joc Pederson and Corey Seager as examples — and at least one more lesser prospect. Interestingly, McAdam notes that the Red Sox will not consider trading Lester to the Yankees.
  • The Brewers have spoken to the Sox about Lester, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Milwaukee was said to have asked the Rays about David Price as well, but Price might not be dealt now, and Lester would cost less to acquire. Heyman notes that Milwaukee has top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson to offer as a centerpiece and has a deeper farm system than it has in prior years. Nelson ranked 38th on Baseball America’s midseason list of the game’s Top 50 prospects, and MLB.com ranked him 53rd on their midseason Top 100.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.