Kansas City is seeking front-line starting pitching help to aid the recent acquisitions of Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie. Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star reports that the Royals may be willing to give up top prospect Wil Myers in exchange for a Jon Lester or a James Shields.
“We’re now at a point in time," said Royals general manager Dayton Moore, “where we have good young players—as good as any team in baseball. Now, we’ve got to do what we can to support them. Do we trade one of them? I don’t know.”
Trading Lester for Myers would have major implications on the 2013 Red Sox and well into the future as well. It would most certainly be tough to part ways with Lester, who has pitched so well—outside of 2012—over the course of his seven-year career in Boston.
Would Boston be a better team with Myers, though?
Here’s why Cherington should pull the trigger and land one of the best prospects in baseball.
Despite signing David Ross and Jonny Gomes to deals this ,as well as re-signing David Ortiz to a two-year deal, the Red Sox still only have around $68 million committed to 2013, according to Cot’s Contracts. Without Lester, who’s scheduled to make $11.625 million 2013, the Red Sox would have around $56 million committed.
With such little money invested, there’s no reason the Red Sox couldn’t go out and find a free agent replacement for Lester. Boston already needs to find a fifth starter, regardless of whether the Red Sox deal Lester. Adding one more wouldn’t be the most difficult thing in the world, especially with all of the money they could spend in that case.
Boston also has interest in Kyle Lohse, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe.
“Lohse had a great year and yes, the Red Sox have called about him. At 34, he may be a bit out of their age range. He’s probably looking for at least three years and that may be risky.”
There are still plenty of available and capable starting pitchers on the free agent market who Boston could spend a considerable amount on in order to rebuild their starting rotation.
It’s no secret that Jacoby Ellsbury will become a free agent after the 2013 season, and it’s up for debate whether Boston will try to bring him back.
The Red Sox aren’t very interested in trading Ellsbury away, however, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
Things change, but #RedSox currently disinclined to trade Ellsbury with value down. Club figures he will be highly motivated in FA year.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 7, 2012
Even though Boston’s reluctant to trade him away, and hypothetically could for either a starting pitcher or shortstop, it’s unlikely they extend him before he hits free agency, according to Sean McAdam of Comcast SportsNet New England.
“One major league executive, asked recently about the chances of the Sox getting Ellsbury to agree to a contract extension before he reaches free agency, replied without hesitation: 'Zero.'”
If the Red Sox were to acquire Myers, they could completely forget about Ellsbury.
Ellsbury had a fantastic year in 2011—finishing second in the American League MVP voting—but Myers is the type of player with the potential of putting up MVP-caliber numbers year after year.
Between Double-A and Triple-A last year in the Royals’ minor league system, Myers hit .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI in 134 games.
“You can project Myers to hit 30 homers in two or three years,” one Royals official told Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star.
Once Myers eventually makes it to a major league roster—which could come as early as 2013—he will be under team control for the next six seasons before he can enter free agency.
Lester is under contract for 2013, and then there’s a $13 million team option which could be voided should he finish in top two of the Cy Young voting.
As it turns out, Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star asks the most important question of them all.
“Is either [Lester or James Shields] worth considering from the Royals’ perspective. In effect, are two years of Shields or Lester worth six years of Myers?”
From a Royals standpoint, the answer is most likely no. Sure, Lester had a poor 2012 campaign, but there’s still a good chance he bounces back in 2013 and could contend for a Cy Young. If that were to happen and the option became void, the Royals would be getting a raw deal.
On the contrary, the Red Sox would be getting a great contract. Six years of a player who could turn around a franchise doesn’t come knocking every day or even every season.
“You’d have a middle-of-the-order bat that’s controllable and affordable,” a Royals official told Dutton.
Even with Lester’s contract coming to an end soon, the Red Sox don’t seem to be focused on extending him, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.
“I still got really a year before we kind of have to figure things out as far as an option or anything like that,” said Lester. “Like I said, it’s probably not something high on their list right now.”
Lester is right. Extending him shouldn’t be high on their list, especially if they’re considering dealing him to Kansas City.
As I’ve discussed, the Red Sox have an abundance of free money with Lester on the roster and the potential of his trade. The Red Sox would need to acquire two starting pitchers, but that should still leave them with more than enough money to splurge into the position-player market.
Outside of the starting rotation, the Red Sox still have holes at right field, first base and potentially shortstop.
The Red Sox plan to sign free agent Mike Napoli so that he can fill the first base void, according to Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.
— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) November 27, 2012
Boston then has to focus on finding a right fielder, whether it be Cody Ross or an outsider such as former New York Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher.
Buster Olney of ESPN reports that Boston may be in the lead to land Ross.
Friends of Cody Ross believe BOS is in the lead in his neg. on 3-year deal. But sources say there haven't been new talks in last few days.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 27, 2012
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that Swisher is also a candidate to roam right field in Fenway Park on a regular basis next season.
“The Red Sox are said to like Swisher’s versatility, as he can play first base as well as the outfield,” writes Heyman.
If the Red Sox are going to sign one, if not two, of the three aforementioned free agents, they’re going to need money. Trading Lester would give them a significant amount more to work with.
The Red Sox have quite the slew of young talent currently in the minor league system and in the big leagues. Adding Myers would only increase their potential.
At midseason this past year, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America ranked Myers the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, behind Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dylan Bundy and Texas Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar. The highest-rated Red Sox prospect was pitcher Matt Barnes at No. 11, with shortstop prospect Xander Bogaerts ranked No. 31 and outfield prospect Jackie Bradley ranked No. 32.
Adding Myers to a lineup that could soon feature Will Middlebrooks, Bradley and Bogaerts would create a strong, young team that Boston could potentially win a lot of games with, according to Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal.
“Should they pan out the way they’re expected to—no guarantee, certainly—it’s easy to imagine an impact lineup starting with Bradley getting on base at the top of featuring Bogaerts, Myers and Middlebrooks terrorizing opposing pitchers from the 3-4-5 spots in the batting order.”
MacPherson also mentions that this lineup would seem to come together after the 2013 season, most likely in 2014 or 2015.
If it’s 2014, the Red Sox would still have David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia under contract and another outfield prospect, Bryce Brentz, could also be ready for the majors.
“Should such a scenario be what Cherington is envisioning, it’s easier to understand the rationale for pulling the trigger on a Lester-for-Myers swap,” writes MacPherson. “It would be gutsy. It might, however, be the best thing for the next great Red Sox team.”
Believe it or not, this is the type of trade that could turn the Red Sox from cellar dwellers to World Series contenders before you know it. Pull the trigger, Ben.