Look, like any Boston Red Sox fan I don’t want to see Jon Lester go, but if Boston’s unwilling to meet his demands then trading him is sensible. The return they would amass for him would be great, and, come on, it’s a better alternative than keeping him around for the rest of a year that will likely lead to nothing of significance. Yet he’s not the only “ace” getting calls on; reports suggest John Lackey is commanding trade interest as well.
The same argument for trading Lester could be made for Lackey because of the return — although not as great as Lester — the Red Sox would inevitably receive. However, unlike Lester, Lackey has a 2015 vesting option for $500,000 Boston would obviously exercise given the chance. Unfortunately, they probably won’t get the chance to retain the right-hander for such a paltry amount and, as Ken Rosenthal reported earlier in the year, Lackey may very well threaten retirement so Boston’s hand is force to draw up a new deal. The theoretical extension would only be for two, maybe three years considering he will be 36 when the 2015 season commences. The contrast in years Lester and Lackey yearn for in their new deals makes all the difference in the world.
Boston’s change in philosophy happened rather briskly in 2012 once the Carl Crawford, and, to a lesser extent, the Adrian Gonzalez long-term deal failed miserably. Since then, the Red Sox have preferred shorter contracts for more AAV (average annual value), avoiding long contracts at all cost. The logic behind it made sense on paper, but when it actually produced a World Series Championship the next year it became a model for Boston and other teams to follow. So, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone when the Red Sox let Jacoby Ellsbury leave in the prior off season, making an offer sure to be outbid, and relied on youngster Jackie Bradley Jr. and the injury-riddled Grady Sizemore in ’14. JBJ has played well as of late, but has only been worth a 1.5 fWAR and Sizemore, who was released mid-June, a -0.5 fWAR. The combined total of the two is a fairly substantial difference from the 5.8 fWAR Ellsbury was worth last season, wouldn’t you say?
Nevertheless, Boston needs to retain at least one of these guys. If not, Clay Buchholz likely becomes the number one in ’15 and that’s beyond scary. As Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts have shown us this season, expecting talented rookies to step up and carry the team to prosperity is a pipe dream. I’m weary supporting a rotation composed of three-to-four fifths youngsters, which is very realistic possibility if Lackey and Lester are both gone.
Like I said, I understand if Lester’s demands are too much for Ben Cherington, but I sincerely doubt Lackey’s are. Instead of focusing energy shopping him, how about exerting the attention to extending him? He’s been undeniably consistent the past two years and trading him makes it unlikely he re-signs in the offseason.
Your move, Cherington.