Blue Jays players considered the possibility that their team could consider acquiring longtime rival Jon Lester in a trade. (AP)

Blue Jays players considered the possibility that their team could consider acquiring longtime rival Jon Lester in a trade. (AP)

Rumors have been flying over the past few days regarding Jon Lester‘€™s future. While there are naturally a number of clubs vying for the services of Lester, two of the more interesting teams that have been connected to the Sox lefty are the Orioles and the Blue Jays, two of the Red Sox‘€™ divisional rivals.

Obviously, trading within the division is something that doesn’t happen often. The last time the Red Sox struck a deal with an AL East rival was when they acquired current manager John Farrell and pitcher David Carpenter for infielder Mike Aviles prior to the 2013 season. But inter-divisional deals that occur during the season are even more rare.

To find the last time the Red Sox pulled off a deal within the AL East in the middle of the summer, you’€™d have to go back to 2006, when they sent cash and a player to be named later to Baltimore for catcher Javy Lopez. They also acquired Eric Hinske from the Blue Jays for cash after the deadline that year.

While no deal with the Blue Jays or any other team is imminent, the prospect of Lester pitching for the team that he’€™s competed against for so long is intriguing.

“€œIt’€™d be strange,”€ Toronto outfielder Colby Rasmus said of the idea of someone like Lester, who he’€™s faced often since being traded from the Cardinals to the Blue Jays in 2011. “But I’€™ve played for a little while now and I’€™ve had that happen before, it is kind of a weird thing, somebody who has dominated you and somebody that you compete heavily against, you have to form some sort of a hatred for that person to try to get out there every day and compete against them, as good as he is, but I’€™m sure we’€™d welcome him in with open arms and just hope that he helps us out.”€

Nolan Reimold, who has spent his entire six-year career in the AL East between the Orioles and the Blue Jays (who claimed him off waivers from the Orioles earlier this month), offered similar sentiments about the concept of dealing within the division.

“€œThat doesn’t happen very often. … I don’€™t know what the odds are that they do that, because normally teams don’€™t want to trade within the division, but who knows, we’€™ll wait and see,” Reimold said. “I mean, once someone’€™s on your team, they’€™re your teammate. I haven’€™t faced him in quite some time, it’€™s been a little while but once he’€™s on your team he’€™s just one of the guys trying to help you reach your goal.”

While Jays slugger Jose Bautista wouldn’€™t comment directly on Lester’€™s situation given the amount of uncertainty and speculation that surrounds it, he spoke hypothetically of the idea of a deal of similar circumstances.

“I’€™m not a GM, but if I ever were to become one and I trade within my division, I would be concerned with what I’€™m acquiring, not what I’€™m giving what I’€™m giving up,” Bautista said. “There’€™s a reason why you’€™re making a trade in the first place so I’€™m just focused on that and ultimately feel and understand and believe that if I pull the trigger on it it’€™s because I feel like what I am getting is more beneficial to the organization than what I’€™m giving up.”

There was one thing everything could agree on, however. Division rival or not, any team would be happy to welcome Lester aboard.

“He’€™d have the impact that he has on every team, I mean how he is with the Red Sox,” Rasmus said when asked what Lester could bring to the club. “He’€™s a dominant pitcher, he’€™s as good as advertised, he’€™s a mule on the mound and can put a team on his back and give you that big first game start if you need it.”

“I’€™ve had plenty of those guys [who have come from rival teams] throughout my career, and if they’€™re quality players who you feel like could contribute and make a difference and be an integral part of the success of that organization moving forward, especially if you’€™re tied to that organization, it’€™s huge,” Bautista said. “It’€™s great, it shows commitment from the management and ownership and a determination to win, which ultimately everybody wants, from the players all the way up to the ownership.”

While Lester’€™s future destination (or lack thereof) isn’t clear, there’€™s one thing that is: He can be an asset to any competitive team.

“œHe’€™s a top of the line starter, he’€™s had a lot of success,”€ Reimold said. “€œI don’€™t think there’€™s a team out there that wouldn’€™t like to have him. I think that speaks for itself.”

Blog Author: 
Katie Morrison

Breaking: The Red Sox are playing on Tuesday.

Jon Lester said he doesn't want to discuss a contract extension with the Sox until after the season. (AP)

Farrell said Tuesday that Lester is still scheduled to make his next start Wednesday against Toronto. (AP)

Breaking: The Red Sox are playing on Tuesday. But that immediate engagement represented an afterthought when John Farrell met with the media prior to his team’s game against the Blue Jays.

With Boston sitting 11 games back in the AL East division standings and the July 31 trade deadline drawing closer and closer, the focus on the team in recent days has not been a matter of determining the chances of a miraculous playoff run in the final two months of the season. Rather, it has all been about ace Jon Lester, who could see his almost 12-year career with the Red Sox organization come to a close in a matter of days, perhaps even as soon as Wednesday.

Lester is scheduled to make his next start on Wednesday. That remains the case even with rumors swirling around him. But the rumors have enough substance that the Red Sox have already announced an alternative should Lester be dealt in the next 24 hours.

“As of right now, [Lester is] scheduled to start [Wednesday] night,” said Farrell. “We have a contingency plan. If Jon is traded by this time tomorrow Brandon Workman will start.”

While the chances of Lester remaining as a member of the team becomes an increasingly slim scenario as the hours pass, Farrell said that he remains optimistic that Lester will remain in the Sox rotation by the time the deadline passes.

“Someone asked me a question earlier about having experienced a lot of successes, a lot of challenges and my only response is that I hope there are many more to experience with [Lester],” Farrell said. “The reality of the game is what we’€™re living right now and certain individual cases, but I’€™m always optimistic and hopeful that he’€™ll remain in a Red Sox uniform.”

Lester has put together his best season as a pro during his final year under contract with Boston, posting career highs in ERA (2.52), WHIP (1.12) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.66) in 2014.

The potential of adding a pitcher with the pedigree of Lester to any rotation has made the Sox southpaw a hot commodity as the trade deadline draws closer and closer, with teams such as the Dodgers, Mariners, Brewers and even AL East foes such as the Orioles and Blue Jays linked to Lester.

While any trade involving Lester has the potential to yield a significant haul back to the Red Sox, yet questions about how the Red Sox would go about replacing a top-of-the-rotation left-hander.

So how does the team get better going forward by trading Lester? On that subject, Farrell did not attempt an answer.

“€œThat’€™s probably a question better answered by [Red Sox GM] Ben [Cherington], because no one knows what the return of any player, if they’€™re traded, is going to bring,” Farrell said. “€œBut our goal is to be as good as we can, as quick as we can, and that’€™s not saying that we close the book on 2014, so to specifically answer that question, it remains to be seen who gets traded and for what.”

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

According to multiple sources, the only offer made by either side in the Jon Lester negotiations — from Lester’s representatives or the Red Sox — was the initial offering of four years, $70 million by

According to multiple sources, the only offer made by either side in the Jon Lester negotiations — from Lester’s representatives or the Red Sox — was the initial offering of four years, $70 million by the Sox at the end of spring training.

Yet, according to the sources, even with just the one formal offer, both sides have a “pretty good” understanding of what the respective parties are looking for their landing spots to be. The talks have been, and continue to be, classified as cordial and without animosity.

With the parameters in place, and no further communication scheduled until after the season, it has led the Red Sox to explore trade options involving the lefty.

While Lester is scheduled to pitch Wednesday, sources suggest there is still some uncertainty regarding whether or not he will make the start. Red Sox manager John Farrell said prior to Tuesday night’s game that if Lester isn’t able to go in the Sox’ series finale against the Blue Jays, Brandon Workman would fill in.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

It’s a hectic time for the shaping of the Red Sox. The team is currently in sell mode, with the possibility of dealing any number of key veterans such as Jon Lester and John Lackey.

Blake Swihart has 12 homers in Double-A Portland this year. (365digitalphotography.com)

Blake Swihart has 12 homers in Double-A Portland this year. (365digitalphotography.com)

It’s a hectic time for the shaping of the Red Sox. The team is currently in sell mode, with the possibility of dealing any number of key veterans such as Jon Lester and John Lackey. At the same time, the Sox are no doubt in the early stages of contemplating how they’re going to address some of their pressing needs for 2015, whether beefing up the middle of the order or identifying a starting pitcher who could serve as a replacement for Lester should he not be with the team in 2015.

That, in turn, has created scenarios in which the Sox could both sell (parting with players slated to reach free agency after this year) and buy (adding long-term assets). For instance, could a team that has an organizational commitment to limiting the risk associated with long-term deals let Lester walk (or trade him, as the case may be) rather than signing him to a five- or six-year deal at, say, $24 million a year, and instead seek to trade for a pitcher like Cole Hamels who is essentially Lester’s age (Hamels, 30, is less than a month older than Lester), but whose contract guarantee would count as just a four-year, $96 million commitment for luxury tax purposes? In essence, doing so would have the Sox acquiring prospects for Lester and trading other prospects away in order to avoid one or two years at roughly the same AAV that Hamels would be receiving.

The Sox would certainly appear to have the trade chips to acquire Hamels, certainly. As Jim Callis of MLB.com noted in this podcast (on whether WEEI.com and/or the baseball industry overrates Red Sox prospects), the Sox might have the best catching prospect (Blake Swihart), the best left-handed pitching prospect (Henry Owens) and the best second base prospect (Mookie Betts) in the game. That permits flexibility to strike a deal.

So would it make sense for the Sox to send out prospects — perhaps a package headlined by Swihart, at a time when Christian Vazquez has been extremely impressive — in order to acquire a Hamels and avoid going an extra year or two on Lester? To Callis, the answer is no.

“I’m the guy who keeps writing the line, and I always qualify this by saying I’m not saying Blake Swihart will be this, but Blake Swihart has the closest thing to Buster Posey‘s tools since Buster Posey,” Callis said, alluding to the Giants catcher and 2012 NL Most Valuable Player. “That’s a huge consideration. … You know what Jon Lester can do in Boston. You don’t have to worry about if there’s any adjustment there, though it’s not like Philadelphia is any cakewalk either. Cole Hamels has been a world champion as well. But I think, if my choices were giving Jon Lester an extra year at $24 million or I could have Cole Hamels for one less year but I had to give up Blake Swihart and other players, I’m signing Jon Lester. I don’t want to give up Blake Swihart.

“I know you want the flexibility because the team got in a bad way when it committed all the dollars to Crawford and Lackey was hurt, and they had no flexibility before the Dodgers bailed them out, but at the same time, if Blake Swihart, I’m not going to say he’s going to be Buster Posey. Let’s not even say he’ll be an All-Star — we’ll just say an above-average catcher, a guy who can hit .280 with 15 homers and be a solid defender. That’s a pretty good player. That is probably an All-Star.

“If Blake Swihart is doing that and you’re paying him $500,000 or close to it for two or three years, and you still get a discount when you’re paying him in arbitration, when you’re paying Cole Hamels or Jon Lester for that matter $24 million a year, really, I think, what you’re hoping for is that you break even. You’re not going to get a lot of excess value if you’re paying a pitcher $24 million a year. You might break even, but you’re not going to come out ahead. If I’m paying Blake Swihart $500,00 a year, I can come out way ahead.”

Callis said that he would put Swihart atop the list of the Red Sox prospects who are most difficult to trade.

“There never should be anyone [off limits] because you never know what kind of trade package you’ll get,” said Callis. “An obvious target would be somebody like Giancarlo Stanton. Say Stanton’s available. To me, the best prospect in the system is now Mookie Betts. But I’ve also got Dustin Pedroia signed long term at second base, I’ve got Sean Coyle and Wendell Rijo coming up behind him, and while I think Mookie Betts can be a good center fielder, I still believe in Jackie Bradley‘s on-base skills and I still think Jackie Bradley, in time, can be the best defensive center fielder in baseball. So to me, Mookie Betts would be expendable.

“If I were running the Red Sox, I’m making the final call, Marlins are on the line and they’ll trade Giancarlo Stanton, the guy who it would pain me to give up would be Blake Swihart. But you also have Christian Vazquez. Blake Swihart is arguably the best catching prospect in baseball. Christian Vazquez is in the top eight, 10, 15 catching prospects in baseball. So if Giancarlo Stanton is there and I have to part with Blake Swihart,” Callis paused to consider. “I would struggle with that. He would probably be the guy I would have the hardest time trading. That’s the hardest position to fill and he has a chance to be really, really good.”

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier
Garin Cecchini hit his fourth homer of the year on Monday. (AP)

Garin Cecchini hit his fourth homer of the year on Monday. (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-4 LOSS AT SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)

(BOX)

Garin Cecchini, amidst the worst offensive stretch of his career, enjoyed a positive glimmer on Monday, going 1-for-4 with a homer, his first of the month and his fourth of the year. Still, the struggles of Cecchini represent one of the foremost puzzles of 2014 in the Red Sox farm system. A player with a tremendous ability to catch the ball on his barrel and to shoot hits all over the field — while staying back and drawing enormous numbers of walks — has seen his season enter something of a spiral over the last two months.

On May 15, he had a pair of hits to improve his line to a .306 average, .400 OBP and .379 slugging mark. In 49 games since then, he’s hitting .200 with a .262 OBP and .289 slugging mark. And his struggles don’t simply reflect bad luck and a poor batting average on balls in play — Cecchini has 12 walks (6.2 percent walk rate) and 44 strikeouts (22.6 percent rate) during that span, marks that represent a considerable shift from his career norms.

In short, Cecchini — a consistently excellent performer during his professional career — finds himself in an unfamiliar place in Triple-A, with a .243 average, .321 OBP and .326 slugging mark on the year. Evaluators — both inside and outside the Red Sox system — continue to believe that Cecchini will hit, and perhaps the homer on Monday represents the beginning of a strong finishing stretch to his minor league season. But for the first time, Cecchini’s player development path now includes something other than a straight line ascent through the minors, likely delaying his eventual timetable for a regular role in the big leagues.

Travis Shaw went 1-for-4 while launching an eighth-inning homer, reaching a career milestone. Shaw now has 20 homers on the year between Double-A Portland (11 in 47 games) and Pawtucket (9 in 54 games), one of 29 players in the minors with 20-plus homers at this point. He thus surpassed his previous career-high of 19 homers achieved in 2012. Shaw is hitting .290/.347/.491 in Triple-A and .297/.374/.517 between the two levels.

Will Middlebrooks went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. During his rehab assignments with the PawSox in July, he’s hitting .269/.315/.493 with four walks and 18 strikeouts.

Ryan Lavarnway went 2-for-3 with a walk; he’s reached base multiple times in all three of his games since rejoining the PawSox. He’s 5-for-9 with a double and three walks with the PawSox.

Mookie Betts was Featless, going 0-for-4, ending his seven-game hitting streak.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 2-0 WIN VS. READING (PHILLIES)

(BOX)

Blake Swihart continues to cement his reputation as an elite prospect. The 22-year-old went 2-for-4 with his 12th homer of the year, and his fifth batting left-handed against a right-handed pitcher. The switch-hitter is now hitting .306/.358/.498 on the year, including .320/.379/.478 while hitting left-handed — a side of the plate from which he didn’t learn to hit until his sophomore year of high school.

– Right-hander Mike Augliera tossed eight scoreless innings, allowing just two hits (both singles), walking none and punching out four while recording 16 outs via groundball. Though the 24-year-old is 5-9 with a 5.03 ERA this year, his ability to get groundballs in bunches while throwing strikes (he’s walked just 1.3 per nine innings this year) creates the possibility of a Burke Badenhop-ish future in the big leagues.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: OFF DAY

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-0 LOSS AT HAGERSTOWN (NATIONALS)

(BOX)

– Outfielder Manuel Margot went 0-for-2 with a walk. He’s now walked in three straight games, continuing a year in which the 19-year-old has shown a continuation of the solid on-base skills that were on display for much of his 2013 campaign in Lowell. Margot has 32 walks and 42 strikeouts on the year, with the ability to negotiate walks — in tandem with his speed on the bases — suggesting that he has secondary skills that give him value even through cold offensive stretches. In July, for instance, Margot has a significantly below-average .215 average but a slightly below average .315 OBP with seven walks and 10 strikeouts in 18 games. On the year, he’s hitting .260 with a .333 OBP and .408 slugging mark along with eight homers, 27 extra-base hits and 32 stolen bases.

– Left-hander Daniel McGrath lasted just three innings — his second shortest outing of the year, and his shortest since his first start in Greenville on May 14) — allowing three runs on five hits and four walks while striking out three. The outing snapped a streak of seven straight starts in which the 20-year-old had tossed five-plus innings.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 8-5 LOSS VS. BROOKLYN (METS)

(BOX)

– DH Sam Travis went 4-for-5 with a triple, the first four-hit game of his first pro summer. The 20-year-old masher, taken in the second round this year out of Indiana, is hitting .309/.344/.428 through 37 games.

– For the second time in his four games since a promotion from the GCL, Joseph Monge had a three-hit game, going 3-for-5 with a double. The 19-year-old is 7-for-19 (.368) in his four games since moving up, after hitting .266/.390/.453 in the GCL.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 2-0 WIN, 10-3 WIN AT GCL ORIOLES

(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)

– Center fielder Trenton Kemp went 2-for-4 with a double and homer, his first longball as a pro since signing with the Sox as a 15th-round pick. The 18-year-old is hitting .226/.293/.321.

Bryce Brentz went 0-for-3 with a walk. In seven games in the GCL since starting his rehab assignment, he’s 1-for-17 with two walks (one intentional) and four strikeouts.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 10-1 LOSS AT DSL GIANTS

(BOX)

Raiwinson Lameda had two of the Sox’ three hits in the game, including a double against a left-handed starter. The left-handed hitting Lameda, 18, is hitting an astounding .647/.700/.882 in 20 plate appearances against pitchers of the same handedness, and .299/.362/.444 overall.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier
Clay Buchholz's poor outing on Monday may have been in the Red Sox' long-term interests for a turnaround. (AP)

Clay Buchholz‘s poor outing on Monday may have been in the Red Sox‘ long-term interests for a turnaround. (AP)

The Red Sox’ run of eight wins in nine games proved a blip, quickly giving way to a crumbling stretch of five straight losses and now six in seven games, the latest a dismal 14-1 defeat at the hands of the Blue Jays. The team has officially raised the “For Sale” flag, and at a time when the team is on pace for 73 games, given the pieces that could be moving in the coming days, there’s a very real chance that the team falls well short of even that.

Of course, there’s something to be said for just such a scenario. In some ways, the most direct path for the Red Sox to be good in 2015 may be the possibility of being wretched for the duration of 2014 — reprising a page from the late-2012 playbook that helped position the Sox for a title in 2013.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels joined Rob Bradford and Alex Speier on The Trade Deadline Show last Thursday to discuss the matter. (To hear the interview, go to the Trade Deadline Show audio on demand page.)

“On some level the rules are in place to create parity. Finishing at the bottom of the standings, we have a chance to do it this year,” Daniels said. “We certainly don’t want to, we weren’t designed that way. The system is set up that it’s an enormous advantage to finish last. It’s something we need to look at as an industry.

“We have an incentive to lose on some level and nobody wants to acknowledge that and nobody builds their team thinking to lose. In the NBA, you finish with the worst record, you’ll still have to go through the lottery. You’re not guaranteed to pick first. In baseball, not only do you get to pick first, but then you get a bigger draft budget for your pool so you actually get the access to the top player, but you also get the advantage of moving money around and more money to spend throughout the draft.

“Same thing on the international side. Plus you get the top waiver claim all winter and into the first month of next year and you get the top Rule 5 pick. Four or five times over you have an advantage in terms of acquiring players in almost every avenue except for trades and major league free agency.”

In fact, a team does have a meaningful advantage in major league free agency if it finishes near the bottom of the pile. The team’s with baseball’s 10 worst records have protected first-round draft picks, meaning that even if they sign a free agent who receives a one-year qualifying offer from their 2014 teams (a group that will likely include Max Scherzer, Hanley Ramirez and presumably slugger Nelson Cruz), they would retain their first-round pick.

That does influence strategies in the free agent market. For instance, the Orioles had no plans to sign Cruz this past offseason until they’d already given up their first-round pick by signing Ubaldo Jimenez. The team felt that Cruz was a talent worthy of sacrificing a second-round but not a first-round pick. This past offseason, the Mets adopted a more aggressive free agent strategy (headlined by the signing of Curtis Granderson) in part because their first-round pick was protected.

So, while Monday’s game offered a reminder that some bad baseball could lie ahead for the Red Sox, that could be a portent of more freedom to pursue a dramatic reversal of course by next year.

Alex Speier contributed to this report.

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas

According to industry sources, the Red Sox are considering broad-ranging possibilities between now and Thursday’s trade deadline. The expectation is that the team will sift through possibilities until sometime close to the trade deadline, but at least in theory, the team is willing to entertain virtually any scenario.