In the words of Nationals' radio play-by-play broadcaster Charlie Slowes following the remarkable debut by Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday in Washington DC, "There's a new mayor in town, and the campaign took one night."
It is permissible to let our imaginations run wild with a player like Strasburg, and not just because everyone else is doing it. However, the fact remains that it is very unlikely that there is a player in baseball right now with the potential to hit 60 home runs, which has long been the most alluring statistical figure in baseball. But the last two AL home run champions (37 for Miguel Cabrera in 2008, 39 for Carlos Pena and Mark Teixeira in 2009) have only totaled 76 home runs, which would break the standing home run record by only two!
As baseball fans, we have to look elsewhere from home runs for a national story. The past few years, the age of the young pitcher has been dominating the national scene. Tim Lincecum has two Cy Young awards by age 25, Zack Grienke took home the Cy Young at age 25 and posted a ridiculous ERA for the AL, and NL teams this season can speak to the utter dominance of 26-year-old phenom Ubaldo Jimenez.
The strikeout has become the new home run. The last generation of great pitchers (Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson) have now been replaced by a younger ensemble of hard-throwing hurlers. It is obvious to say that every team wants Stephen Strasburg, and not so that local diners can cash in on a wide variety of sandwiches called "The Strasburger." Every teams wants him for the national draw that he is getting, in addition to his seemingly limitless pitching talent.
So, the question is: Who would you be willing to part with for Stephen Strasburg?
The Boston Red Sox have 25 players on their active roster, and a total of 34 players have donned a uniform so far this season. They have seven minor league affiliates, which would put the total number of payers affiliated with the Boston Red Sox at around 200.
There is only one player that I would not give up under any circumstances, even if the trade was one to one, and that is Jon Lester. Lester has, believe it or not, the exact same potential that Strasburg, except that Lester has already begun to follow through with success. Does this sound crazy?
The sport of professional baseball is over 150 years old. Using mlb.com's historical statistics page, they list approximately 17,200 hitters who have recorded an at-bat in the majors and about 8,350 pitchers who have recorded an out, with incomplete records dating back to 1871. Yes, there will be some duplicates, but we can very roughly estimate that somewhere around 20,000 people have played professional baseball. Of that number, who has the highest winning percentage with at least 100 starts?
If you guessed Stephen Strasburg, you'd be wrong. If you guessed Jon Lester, you've earned a sticker for today. With a career record of 49-18, Lester's .731 winning percentage is higher than anybody with at least that many starts. Oh, and he also happens to be leading the AL in strikeouts.
Lester has everything that Strasburg has—the size, the pitching repertoire—without the same fanfare because he wasn't the number one overall pick. Lester also has done all of his work in the best division in baseball since he came up, so imagine what his numbers would have been like if Boston played in the NL West. Lester has not pitched his last no hitter, and he will win at least one Cy Young Award. At 26 and with the record he has already acquired, Lester is Boston's Strasburg.
As for the rest of the players in Boston, it would depend on what else was included in the deal, but the only other player I would not trade, unless it was one to one (which would never happen), would be Dustin Pedroia. A Rookie of the Year, MVP, and Gold Glove already won, Pedroia has batting titles and several more GGs in his future.
The next closest player that I would have initial problems dealing away would be Kevin Youkilis. He plays two positions, is a very consistent .300 plus hitter with one of, if not the best, eye in the game. He has the potential to hit 40 home runs and is the cleanup hitter on the team that has scored the most runs in the AL this year. But, and this is somewhat surprising, Youkilis is already 31, which means that he is in his prime right now. Nobody expects him to fall off anytime soon, but we said the same thing about David Ortiz, whose last impact year came when he was 31, and we all feel that at 34, he is exceptionally over the hill.
I was thinking that, with respect to the almost 200 players in the Sox farm system, there would be some that I would hold onto. I might have to hold onto Casey Kelly, but he is only in his first year being a full time pitcher, while around the same age as Strasburg.
Lester is a dominant pitcher already, and he would be the one player from this Red Sox team that I would not give up for Stephen Strasburg.