Jon Lester scratched as trade talk swirls
The Red Sox scratched Jon Lester from his start against the Blue Jays Wednesday night and are preparing to trade him.
Righthander Brandon Workman has been recalled from Triple A Pawtucket to replace Lester and manager John Farrell said a corresponding roster move would be made before the game.
That could be the announcement that Lester has been traded after nine seasons that included two World Series championships.
“In light of all the uncertainty surrounding Jon Lester, it’s probably in everyone’s best interests that he does not make that start,” Farrell said after a 4-2 loss against the Blue Jays Tuesday night.
The Red Sox scratched Lester, a team source said, out of fairness to the team that could acquire him so that team could get the extra start. As of late Tuesday night, multiple teams were involved and the Red Sox could take the bidding right to the Thursday afternoon deadline to exact the greatest return.
The Red Sox are seeking a package of players for Lester that would include two high-end prospects. As of yet they have not received a proposal they find satisfactory.
If no deal is made, Lester would start against the Yankees Friday.
The Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Marlins, and Pirates all have been linked to the discussions. Outside of the Yankees, the Sox are willing to consider teams in the American League East and the Blue Jays and Orioles are interested.
Lester continued to take the high road in what may be his final days with the team by reaching out to fans.
“Thanks for the love y’all! Grateful for everyday I get to wake up a Red Sox! This game can be uncertain at times, just gotta roll with it!” he tweeted.
Players in the clubhouse seemed stunned after the game. Lester left the room before reporters were allowed in.
“It’s tough. We’re not a team, we’re family,” said second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who made his major league debut in 2006, the same year Lester did. “It’s not something you like going through. It makes you feel worse. We don’t want be in this position.”
For Pedroia, it’s hard to imagine the Red Sox without Lester.
“If we’ve got a big game to play, we want him pitching it,” he said. “It would be tough to see him in another uniform . . . I hope in a couple of days he’s here ’cause he means a lot to me, everyone else and what he’s done here. I’m hoping we open the door and he’s in there.”
Lester stood talking with Farrell in shallow right field during batting practice. The two also spoke earlier Tuesday.
For Farrell, it is an awkward situation. He first worked with Lester in 2007 as a pitching coach and helped guide the pitcher in his return from lymphoma.
Lester won the deciding game of the World Series that season and went on to become an All-Star under Farrell’s guidance. When Farrell returned as manager in 2013, Lester was one of his strongest supporters in the clubhouse and that was reflected in his performance on the mound.
Lester is 25-15 with a 3.26 earned run average over the last two seasons, making every start. Lester dominated the postseason last fall, going 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA and winning two games in the World Series.
The two men share a bond that goes beyond the field and Farrell has been an advocate for retaining Lester.
“Someone asked me a question earlier about having experienced a lot of successes, a lot of challenges [together],” Farrell said. “My only response is I hope there are many more to experience with him.
“The reality of the game is what we’re living right now in certain individual cases. I’m always optimistic and hopeful that he’ll remain in the Red Sox uniform.”
General manager Ben Cherington has not commented specifically on Lester other than to say the Red Sox were open to discussing any player.
As the deadline draws closer and the Red Sox contemplate decisions that could change the direction of the franchise, special assistant to the GM Jason Varitek and senior adviser Bill James were spotted at Fenway Park.
Red Sox executives have grown fond in recent weeks of saying their goal is for the team to be become as good as it can as quickly as it can. Farrell was asked how trading the team’s best starter and a clubhouse leader would help accomplish that goal.
“Well, he’s not traded yet,” Farrell said. “If he is traded, that’s probably a question better answered by Ben because no one knows what the return for any player if they’re traded is going to bring.”
Lester will be a free agent after the season, which restricts his value to some degree. But his performance this season and history of postseason success helps to negate that.
Yahoo! Sports reported the Pirates could emerge as the team that lands Lester. Pittsburgh is two games out in the National League Central and has several top prospects including outfielders Josh Bell, Austin Meadows, and Harold Ramirez.
Cherington has a close working relationship with Pirates GM Neal Huntington and the teams have made four trades since 2012.
The Dodgers and Marlins also have well-regarded prospects. Although the Red Sox lack organizational depth in the outfield, they are said to be treating the Lester discussions like the amateur draft and want the best players available.