Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
An attempt to take advantage of an active market through trade
The Red Sox are dangling both Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury on trade market according to Jon Heyman, but this isn't a case of trying to be rid of them. Boston will happily head into 2013 with both of these players on the roster, especially since campaigns that see the pair return to form would be huge towards fielding a competitive club next season.
As ESPN's Buster Olney tells it, Boston is doing this in the hopes that someone will overpay for one or both. It makes sense: there are still teams out there in need of a center fielder, and Boston just took Shane Victorino off of that market the day after Angel Pagan came off, the week after B.J. Upton was signed. Michael Bourn is still out there, but he's going to be very expensive in both years and dollars, and while Ellsbury is a risk to bolt from his new team when free agency hits in a year, he also features a manageable 2013 salary through arbitration, high upside, and the ability to bring back a compensation pick through a qualifying offer. In the right situation, that could all be very valuable to a team looking to make noise in the present.
The same goes for Lester. He has two years left when you include his option for 2014, and even though he had a down year in 2012 as well, it's easy to wave that off at this point given his career prior to that. Zack Greinke is slowly working his way towards a huge deal, and it has frozen the rest of the pitching market out, so if a team is a little trigger-happy in the meantime, they might be willing to guarantee themselves less salary and fewer years of risk to acquire Lester, rather than deal with the fallout from what will likely be a record-setting Greinke deal.
If no one bites, that's fine: Lester can attempt his comeback campaign wearing a Red Sox uni, and Ellsbury can spend his 2013 building his free agent value back up to the benefit of Boston's record. But Boston wouldn't be doing their homework if they weren't at least asking other teams what it is they're willing to give up for these two, especially since the right trade could improve their future even further. And, it's early enough in free agency, and the Red Sox have enough flexibility left, that they could go out and sign a starter after dealing Lester, as well as an additional outfielder if they so choose.