The Boston Red Sox now have exactly 1 starter from the 2013 World Series team on the roster, and that’s Clay Buchholz — the guy with -1.5 WAR this year. Jake Peavy was dealt to the Giants this weekend in what appears to be a steal for the Red Sox, and now Jon Lester and John Lackey, the guys who mowed down the Cardinals in Games 5 and 6 of the World Series last year, are gone.
Lester was dealt along with Jonny Gomes to the A’s for Yeonis Cespedes. Lackey was dealt to the Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. Rumor has it that Cherington is even trying to see what he can get in return for me and my 64 MPH high heat.
While I loved the Peavy deal, I’m not that thrilled about either deal today. (I’ll be discussing the Lackey deal in my next post — this one is just about the Lester deal.) Call me crazy, but I don’t think that his HR Derby potential matters very much for the 2015 baseball season, and it seems like people are forgetting that. HR derby power doesn’t always translate into real power, and Bobby Abreu is a perfect example. You know who’s almost as good of an example? Yeonis Cespedes. He homered 23 times in his great 2012, and 26 times in his bad 2013. This season, he has 17 jacks, but his OBP is .303, more than 10 points below the MLB average. Cespedes has 66 HR in 1546 career plate appearances, meaning that he homers in 4.26% of his time in the batter’s box. Jonny Gomes, by comparison, has homered in 4.22% of his PA throughout his career. At this stage, Cespedes is obviously a better player and power hitter than Gomes, and he also plays in Oakland, which rivals the old Pologrounds as far as pitchers’ parks go. But those numbers should give you some food for thought regarding just how much of a baseball obliterator Yeonis Cespedes really is.
Now, let’s look at the fact that Jon Lester is gone. As we said in our post on the Lester trade 2 days ago, payroll flexibility doesn’t start Game 1 of the World Series. Lester practically admitted that he was willing to take less than market value before the year, and the Red Sox tried to take advantage of his loyalty by offering a 4 year, $70 million deal. That’s a joke for an ace with a 2.11 postseason ERA, including a 1.56 ERA in October of 2013.
There are 2 ways of thinking that I’ve heard as to why it makes sense to trade Lester, and we touched on both on Tuesday simply because they both make sense. If the Sox were going to sign Lester at the number they wanted, they would have by now, since Lester wasn’t holding out for every last penny. And the second is that there’s no real reason to overpay for a guy whom you know you’re going to overpay for, so if the Sox can’t meet Lester at their price, then you gotta trade him.
That’s all fine, but I think it looks over a major premise of mine: The Sox should simply spend more. They’re the Red Sox, who have enough money to do such a trade. The 4 years $70 million price tag is obviously just dumb, but I don’t think Lester would’ve held out for something approaching the Ellsbury deal, for example, or at least not more than it. And that’s where I think a lot of Red Sox fans are overlooking things. They’re saying “Well, if Cherington’s and Henry’s price point (it’s really Henry’s price point, not Cherington’s) was too far from Lester’s, then you gotta trade him.” But what if Henry’s price point sucked in and of itself? That’s the issue I have. Lester is an ace, so you’re gonna have to give him ace money. And if he’s admitting that he’s willing to take a discount that isn’t quite robbery but still a significant discount, then pay up.
OR, you can flip him and get fair market value for that ace. That would be an acceptable option to me as well. But that’s the 2nd premise of mine that makes me not too happy with the deal. I just don’t see Yeonis Cespedes as fair value. Not when his OBP is .303, his power, while being very good and by far the 2nd best on the Red Sox roster, is overrated, and his defensive range is average at best. And he’s 28. Just $9 million for him next year is very doable, but not when it costs you your Game 1 World Series starter.
If it were up to me, I would have looked Jon Lester in the eye, said, “Fuck it, we’ll make a real offer,” and rolled the dice that they could resign him. Even if I’m thinking too much with John Henry’s money and not mine (seriously, that dude is LOADED, though — What’s a scarf?), I still think that it would have been worth it to hope to figure it out in the offseason and retain the guy that pitched lights out in the World Series in 2007 Game 4, 2013 Game 1, and 2013 Game 5.
Of course, if Lester does resign with the Sox this offseason, then I’ll shut up. The A’s don’t spend money ever, so they won’t get him back, and Lester might want to spend the next however many years of his life with his wife and young child in the only city that he’s ever known as a baseball player. The problem is that I can only think of 1 guy in any sport (among good players, not dime a dozen role players) who has been traded from a team midseason and then resigned there a month later, and that was the all world talent of Matt Moulson with the Buffalo Sabres earlier this month. I’m praying for that, but it’s unlikely. It seems like the Red Sox just traded their ace for below market value. I hope I’m wrong.