The Boston Red Sox‘ second half should be highlighted by a deal involving 30-year-old free agent-to be starting pitcher Jon Lester.If you’re not on board with the sentiment being preached around the 30-year-old southpaw, then there is no hope. There’s little chance of changing your opinion.
But there is one thing that should be clear. The Red Sox cannot trade Lester. No matter how far they fall — and by the way, don’t fall into the trap that these last two walk-off wins over the Chicago White Sox will be what turns this season around. No matter how far out of contention they get, Lester must remain on the Boston roster, in hopes that Ben Cherington can keep him on the roster for 2015 and beyond.
The Red Sox are going to be trading away parts over the next six weeks, as they should. It already began with catcher A.J. Pierzynski being designated for assignment on Wednesday. Starting pitcher Jake Peavy isn’t very far behind. Jonny Gomes is likely not too far behind him. Koji Uehara, John Lackey and Burke Badenhop might go, and Mookie Betts might be a piece of something larger.
But there is no trading Lester, regardless of what the return may be. No scenario out there will put Boston in a better position for 2015. Lester is not the final piece of any franchise-altering deal like Adrian Gonzalez was in 2012. As a franchise-like player, he was a part of a deal that ultimately put the Red Sox in better position for 2013 and beyond.
Gonzalez, a rare commodity as a great pure hitter and 30-100 bat, was the key ingredient of a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that also included Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto. The trade sent $262.5 million of payroll out west and it cleared the way for the free agent signings of Shane Victorino, Uehara, Gomes, Ryan Dempster, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew. It also brought a much-needed culture change to the Red Sox clubhouse.
Yes, Lester could be the piece of a deal for a hitter like Giancarlo Stanton or Matt Kemp the Red Sox’ lineup needs. But then how do you replace Lester? You can win without a big bat. While it certainly doesn’t hurt to have one, the fact of the matter is that you can’t win without pitching, particularly the brand of pitching Lester gives.
The only scenario that puts the Red Sox in a better position in 2015 is Sox brass and Lester’s party coming to a pact on a contract extension.
Like the Gonzalez mega-deal in 2012, Cherington has a chance to redeem himself and his job security by pulling a big deal in the second half, making up for assembling a roster that failed to put the club in the best position to win more games than they lost. Unlike 2012, no trade will have a bigger impact on the Red Sox future than the retaining of their ace.