Jon Lester: Trade Candidate?

Apr 23, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

With the All-Star Game over, attention in Boston is slowly shifting back to the Boston Red Sox, with more and more rumblings that they might end up in the seller's role this year.

There are some obvious names that come to mind when talking about selling. Most of the bullpen, if someone wants them. Jacoby Ellsbury, who has one year left on his contract and is likely to be looking big when free agency arrives (assuming his value hasn't taken a big hit due to another injury or a bad year, which of course is its own massive negative). Jarrod Saltalamacchia, currently blocking Ryan Lavarnway and frankly not exactly killing it at the plate anymore.

Jon Lester, though? He certainly doesn't head the list, but the rumblings are there. Peter Gammons said today that Lester was deeply unhappy in Boston, and suggested that he could be the marquee departure to somewhere like Texas.

It's a suggestion which has left me with mixed feelings.

If there's one pitcher on the roster today who would bring back significant value, it's Jon Lester. Wrapped up through 2014 with a team option, just 28 years of age, and just two seasons ago one of the best arms in the American League (he was no slouch in 2011, either), Lester is not a player you let go easy, nor one who other teams will expect to come cheap.

Even with a mediocre 4.49 ERA to his name this year, Lester still has the peripherals to suggest he's worth the interest. A 3.57 FIP and 3.60 xFIP are both hidden by a 67% strand rate and .326 BABIP. At best, that's bad defense and bad luck. At worst it can be read as the sort of defeatism that has, frankly, been unavoidable around these parts and perhaps also in the locker room ever since that awful September where losing seemed to be simply Boston's lot in life.

Don't get me wrong here; I'm not trying to play the amateur psychologist, but after that every time someone reaches base we all seem to think "here we go again." Would it be terribly surprising if one of the players did as well? It's also possible there's something mechanically wrong with him our of the stretch leading to the 90 point difference in OPS with runners on base, or, again, he could just be unlucky.

Regardless, though, it's quite possibly something a change of scenery could fix, or in the case of luck something that would work itself out elsewhere as well as here.

Trading Lester wouldn't be very high on my list of priorities. Mediocre as the results have been this year, I don't expect them to continue next year. He may not be his 2010 self anymore, but he's still a good pitcher on a staff in serious need of them.

That being said, if Lester isn't happy and pushes the issue, the organization may opt to make the move. While frankly it seems on some level like any added degrees of separation between the team and the 2011 Red Sox would be a good thing, the return would have to be pretty good to be worthwhile.

Either way, it's an unbelievable situation to even be talking about this. Just 10 months ago this would have been anathema.

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