ESPN baseball writer Tim Kurkjian joined Middays with MFB Monday afternoon to discuss trade rumors surrounding Jon Lester, Koji Uehara and other Red Sox players. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Trade rumors linking Lester to the Dodgers have quickly emerged as one of the top stories leading up to the July 31 deadline, with LA outfielder Matt Kemp tied in with many of the trade discussions. Kurkjian said that he doesn’t believe that Boston will trade its ace, but noted that a lot can change in the upcoming days.
“I’m going to say that Jon Lester is not going to be traded, with the understanding that has finally occurred to me in the last five days that it’s a possibility,” Kurkjian said. “I would say 10 days ago, I was told, ‘Jon Lester is not going to be traded.’ And now that possibility exists, therefore it is a fascinating situation, and the Dodger angle is very interesting. They have so much money to deal with, all they care about there is winning a World Series and if they can’t get David Price, than maybe, just maybe, they look to Jon Lester.
“I’m just not sure that Matt Kemp is the right fit here. Granted, the Red Sox need all sorts of outfield help, that’s pretty obvious. He played all three outfield positions this year because he has not done very well in center field, but it just doesn’t seem like this is going to happen - Kemp for Lester – because too much money is involved from Kemp’s end, free agency with Lester, to me, there are just too many moving parts.”
Another prime candidate to be traded is closer Koji Uehara, who has once again been spectacular at the back end of the bullpen (21 saves, 1.51 ERA, 0.76 WHIP) this season. While Kurkjian acknowledged that Uehara could be dealt, he added that a big-market team such as the Red Sox do not have the luxury to just mail it in for the rest of the season.
“It’s going to be real interesting what they do with Koji, who had a second half of the year like almost no closer has ever had. … But a free agent at the end of the year, how much is he going to ask for? The Red Sox have to ask themselves, ‘Is he our closer? Do we need to re-sign him? What’s that going to take?’ I was told all along that they’re not trading Koji if they’re in the race, but if they fall out of the race, they naturally have to at least look into it, and I’m sure that they will,” Kurkjian said. “All sorts of teams need a reliever, that’s for sure. This is where contenders, including the Dodgers, just absolutely load up on as many relievers as the can get down the stretch, because you win in the postseason with a deep, versatile bullpen.”
Kurkjian continued: “This is a different situation here in Boston. These are not the Cubs. This team won the World Series last year, they’re selling out virtually every night, it’s an expensive ticket, you can’t just give up on the season when you’re the Boston Red Sox and that’s the tricky spot that they’re in.”
With the Red Sox 10 1/2 games back in the AL East standings, it appears that all hope is lost for any potential playoff runs in 2014. As a result, multiple players could be sent packing in the coming days, including Mike Carp, Felix Doubront, Stephen Drew and Jonny Gomes. While the Red Sox aren’t likely to gain ground in the standings, Kurkjian said that a potential Red Sox fire sale would not be too large.
“No, I don’t think so,” Kurkjian said. “I think at this time of year, at least this is my experience, you hear 1,000 names and two of them move, or one of them move. You also need to look at the value of the people that you’re trading. Mike Carp is a good player in spurts, he can help you in a lot of ways but he’s not going to bring you much realistically, so if you’re not getting anything back, why would you move him even though he’d like to move on? … That’s the way it works this time of year. When you fall out of it, everyone’s available but it’s very rare that three, four, five guys move from one team at the trade deadline.”
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