One sure-fire way for a player to make his way into the trade rumors mill is to claim he is unhappy with his current team, and according to Peter Gammons that is exactly what Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester did.
Lester later denied that he was anything but thrilled to be in Boston via Twitter, but the seeds have been sown for us to at least speculate as to whether Lester could be moved and who would have interest in him.
It's been a down season for both the Red Sox and Lester, as the 28-year-old has gone 5-6 with a 4.49 ERA through his first 18 starts. That after averaging a line of 16-8, 3.33 ERA, 196 Ks over the past four seasons as he's developed into one of the best left-handers in baseball.
The Red Sox are thin on pitching as it is and when you combine that with the fact that they would essentially be selling low on Lester right now, a deal seems unlikely at this point, but stranger things have happened.
If he is in fact moved, the team acquiring him would inherit a $11.625 million salary for next season and a $13 million option for 2014 with a $250,000 buyout, a relative bargain if he can return to form.
While this is purely speculative at this point, here is a look at some teams who could potentially have interest in Lester and what they could use to acquire him.
The team has an established ace in Felix Hernandez and a solid innings eater in Jason Vargas, but beyond that, its current rotation is thin moving forward.
They have a trio of high-end pitching prospects in Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, and while the first two are untouchable, Paxton could be a good place to start in a potential deal.
Proposed Trade Package
- SP James Paxton (3-3, 3.46 ERA, 10.2 K/9 at Double-A)
Baseball America No. 52 prospect, Organization No. 4 prospect
- SP Blake Beavan (3-6, 5.92 ERA, 4.3 K/9 at Seattle)
- SS Brad Miller (.340 BA, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 16 SB at High Single-A)
Organization No. 11 prospect
- RP Carter Capps (32 G, 15 Sv, 1.47 ERA, 13.2 K/9 at Double-A)
Organization No. 16 prospect
Paxton would give the Red Sox a high-ceiling arm who could step in for Lester sooner rather than later, and could even get a shot this year.
Beavan is just 23, but already has 27 big-league starts under his belt and should develop into a solid middle of the rotation guy.
Miller is still young, but shortstop remains a question mark and he could be the answer down the road if Xander Bogaerts winds up at third base as many expect.
Capps gives the team a 21-year-old reliever who is capable of stepping into the big league bullpen right now and has closer stuff moving forward.
The Dodgers are expected to be as active as anyone at the deadline this year, but they are also looking to build the team into a contender for the next several seasons, and they would no doubt love to have Lester not only for the playoff push but through 2014.
The team's farm system is not the deepest, but the talent they do have is close to big-league ready, and it could put a package like this together.
Proposed Trade Package
- SP Allen Webster (3-8, 4.30 ERA, 8.0 K/9 at Double-A)
Baseball America No. 95 prospect, Organization No. 2
- SP Nathan Eovaldi (1-5, 4.21 ERA, 4.6 K/9 at Los Angeles)
Baseball America No. 96 prospect, Organization No. 3)
- RP Josh Lindblom (39 G, 2-2, 3.07 ERA, 7.7 K/9 at Los Angeles)
Organization No. 8 prospect
- OF Jonathan Garcia (.258 BA, 8 HR, 30 RBI at High Single-A)
Organization No. 13 prospect
Eovaldi would give the Red Sox a good young pitcher who could fill Lester's rotation spot this season and become a staple in the rotation for years to come.
Likewise with Webster, who is not quite as far progressed as Eovaldi at this point, but has a higher ceiling and the stuff to be a No. 2 starter once he arrives.
Lindblom gives them a 25-year-old bullpen arm who has already enjoyed success at the big league level this season and could immediately contribute as well.
Garcia, still just 20 years old, is in his fourth pro season and his second year of full-season ball. He's struggled to match the success he had in the Rookie League, but there is still plenty of potential there.
The Braves entered the season with tremendous pitching depth, but injuries to Brandon Beachy and Arodys Vizcaino and ineffectiveness by prospects Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran have left them in the market for a pitcher at the deadline.
With a number of young arms they could flip and a fairly deep farm system, they could certainly put together an intriguing package for the Red Sox.
Proposed Trade Package
- SP Randall Delgado (4-9, 4.52 ERA, 7.2 K/9 at Atlanta)
Baseball America No. 46 prospect, Organization No. 3 prospect
- SP Sean Gilmartin (5-6, 3.42 ERA, 6.7 K/9 at Double-A)
Organization No. 5 prospect
- OF Adam Milligan (.221 BA, 9 HR, 36 RBI at High Single-A and Double-A)
Organization No. 22 prospect
- RP Cory Gearrin (28 G, 7 Sv, 1.25 ERA, 10.6 K/9 at Triple-A)
Organization No. 29 prospect
Delgado gives the Red Sox an immediate replacement for Lester with good upside, and Gilmartin adds another option to contribute immediately as he is very polished.
Milligan is 24 and has been a slow mover through the minors, but he is not all that far removed from a .344 BA, 13 HR, 49 RBI pro debut back in 2009.
Gearrin is 26 years old and is a finished product who projects as a very good middle reliever who could establish himself as a solid setup man.