The Pittsburgh Pirates have been considered to be buyers in the trade market for a while now, and everyone has expected them to go after some smaller deals that would upgrade the team. They’ve been linked to every reliever on the market and middle-of-the-rotation starting pitchers.
But yesterday, that all changed when multiple media outlets reported they were favorites to trade for Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester. Lester has since been scratched from his start against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, and a trade seems likely. When Lester is finally moved, it has to be to the Pirates who acquire the lefty.
When small rumors about Lester first came up, I did not see it as realistic mostly because the Pirates aren’t the team that usually makes a move like that, and I thought the cost would be prohibitive to the Pirates’ future. That appears to have changed with the Pirates trying to center a deal around Josh Bell, an outfield prospect who is very good, but is blocked by the group of young, controllable outfielders that the Pirates already have.
Now that I think the price is fair and the rumors that the Pirates are interested are too much to ignore, I’m all in for the idea.
The Pirates need Lester if they have any aspirations of a long postseason run. Lester is a true ace, one the Pirates haven’t seen since Doug Drabek left. He has some of the best numbers in playoff history. He could anchor one of the strongest rotations in baseball with Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Francisco Liriano and a fifth man.
That, coupled with the great offensive output from the Pirates this season, would make them the obvious favorites in the NL Central, but would also make them the favorites in the entire NL.
There are also strong rumors that the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers are also in on Lester. If the Pirates don’t trade for Lester to help their own playoff chances, they have to block these other NL Central teams from getting him and diminish their chances. The Pirates can’t even let the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are also a favorite, land Lester because there is no way possible they could beat that Dodgers’ rotation in a seven-game series otherwise.
There are just so many other reasons why this trade makes sense. The Pirates have the strongest farm system in the game with a surplus of outfield prospects. The Red Sox need outfield prospects. Neal Huntington and Ben Cherington are old college friends and have made multiple deals in the past. The Pirates can even add a relief pitcher or right-handed bat that they covet from the Red Sox in a blockbuster deal. It’s the perfect match for both teams.
The supposed trade chips according to various online rumors are be Bell, Nick Kingham and JaCoby Jones. If that is what it takes, the Pirates should do it. It is a high price, but it is worth it for one of the best pitchers in the game. You never know what the prospects will become. The Philadelphia Phillies traded three top prospects for Cliff Lee, and none of them panned out, but the Brewers traded top prospects for Zack Greinke and they are now all thriving with the Kansas City Royals.
Trading prospects is an inexact science, and it is a large risk trading these prospects for two months of Lester. However, it is definitely a risk the Pirates have to take.