The Orioles lost Nelson Cruz to the Mariners and Nick Markakis to the Braves thanks to free agency, leaving two holes in the lineup. Cruz led the majors in home runs last year, while Markakis posted a 107 OPS+ and played high-quality defense, if you believe what teams think of his work. It's understandable, given these losses, that they would be on the lookout for someone to help them both with power and defensively. According to WEEI's Rob Bradford, the player they're hoping for is Yoenis Cespedes.
It's an obvious fit for the Orioles, as Cespedes' arm will do some incredible things in right field, and Orioles Park at Camden Yards won't slow his power one bit. What's not so obvious is what the Orioles would send to the Red Sox in return. It won't be Kevin Gausman, who has the chance to be a legitimate ace. Bud Norris has one year left before free agency, but he's an underwhelming return. The Red Sox are unlikely to take the roughly $39 million remaining on Ubaldo Jimenez's deal off of their hands, and that has more to do with the quality of his innings than his cost. Chris Tillman is considered the staff ace, Wei-Yin Chen is inexpensive but probably doesn't have the innings history behind him to be worth Cespedes straight-up.
With Lester gone, what's next for Sox rotation?
The Red Sox rotation was going to be full of holes even with Lester. There is work to be done.
Former Red Sox farmhand Miguel Gonzalez is about the only one of the pitchers in the rotation who fits the bill for Cespedes. He's proven himself capable not just in the American League East, but also in a hitter-friendly park that caters to his opposite handedness in lefties. He's produced a 117 ERA+ over three years and 435 innings in the majors. The innings are a little lacking, sure, but they were from minor injuries (oblique strain, blister), and he also has three years of team control left as he's only in his first year of arbitration eligibility. These are reasons for the Orioles to keep him, but if they want Cespedes' bat, they need to give up someone, and it's unlikely they're going to deal a prospect like Dylan Bundy or Hunter Harvey for a year of Cespedes. Maybe the Sox have to send a mid-level prospect over to help even things out on the cost control side, but in exchange for the answer to a rotation question for the next few years, that's worth exploring.
Remember, too, that both teams would be dealing from a position of strength. The Red Sox' outfield is as crowded as the Orioles' rotation, unless Baltimore plans on sticking Ubaldo Jimenez in the bullpen for the rest of his deal. Sure, it would be a trade within the division, but both teams would benefit, not just one.
The thing to remember the most, though, is that the Red Sox have other offers they are mulling for Cespedes, and that the Orioles are the ones reportedly showing interest here. The positive from this, though, is that it's yet another team interested in removing Cespedes from Boston, which can only help the Sox in those efforts.