Tag Archives: Jon Lester

This @RedSox Tweet Is THE Classiest Way to Tell Fans, ‘Yeah, maybe Lester signs elsewhere’

Here’s to hoping Jon Lester chooses to accept whatever the generous contract offer is from the Boston Red Sox that he currently has on the table over the other proposals from San Francisco, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs.

But if he doesn’t, Red Sox Nation will always have this quote from Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to cherish. Blow this thing up to 11″ x 17″ and put it in a nice expensive frame and hang it above your toilet either next to – or replacing – that cliche God’s Footprints on the Sand piece.

This Week in Boston Baseballing, July 25 – July 31 Trade Deadline Bonanza Edition

From SFGate.com

From SFGate.com

The Red Sox dropped two of three to the Rays in Tampa Bay over the weekend. (But only one of the losses was a shutout!) Boston followed that up by getting swept at home by the Blue Jays. All that turned out to be prelude for the busiest trade deadline in team history. The home crowd sensed it: By the end of the Toronto series the night of July 30, with news of a Jon Lester trade already imminent, fans at Fenway Park were chanting “Jon-ny Lest-er! Jon-ny Lest-er!” as the Jays put the finishing touch on the sweep.

Lester and Gomes Traded To Oakland
The trading partner (the Athletics) and the return (Yoenis Cespedes) may have been a surprise, but Jon Lester being sent to a top contender for a spot in the World Series was not. On NBC Sports, Craig Calcaterra categorized the trade as a Win-Win:

It’s more complicated for Boston, obviously, but it all comes down to what you think of the Red Sox’ chances to contend in 2015. If you think they’re sunk and need to rebuild, sure, you lament the fact that you didn’t get prospects. I don’t think that’s the case however. I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to think they’ll bounce back in 2015 and adding Cespedes to what has been a troublesomely non-productive outfield is a big boost in that regard. No, he was not indispensable in Oakland, but he’s coming to a good hitters park in Boston and represents a solid upgrade. On defense too, where he will be paired in the outfield with Jackie Bradley Jr., giving the Sox some awesome D in the outfield.

The idea that Boston was looking toward 2015 was the conventional wisdom from several other observers too.

 

On top of that reasoning, it was comforting to note that Cespedes’ 17 homers in 2014 would have been mostly of the ‘no-doubt’ variety if they were hit in Fenway Park.

John Lackey to the Cardinals
With news still settling on the Lester deal, word came Thursday early afternoon that John Lackey and his quite desirable $500k 2015 salary was headed to St. Louis in exchange for OF Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly. Craig’s WAR as of yesterday was -0.4 as his batting average and OBP have taken a major hit due to some bad batted ball luck (.368 BABIP in 2013 vs. .281 in 2014). He has in theory, however, bounce back potential over the long-term although he is already 30 years old.

Equally intriguing is Kelly, a 26-year-old right-hander with an underwhelming K/9 ratio but a high rate of ground balls induced. St. Louis has used him as a reliever for a portion of this season but his long-term value is as a mid-rotation starter who is still under club control for four more years.

Dave Cameron on FanGraphs doesn’t see the team’s sudden stockpile of right-handed hitting outfielders (Craig, Cespedes, Victorino) as an issue…yet:

The Red Sox are in asset collection mode. Joe Kelly is a pretty nifty asset to collect, and Allen Craig is a lottery ticket who might be good, might be terrible, or might not last very long in Boston. There’s no way of knowing what the 2015 Red Sox are going to look like, but they’re doing a nice job of giving themselves options. Their current pieces don’t all fit together, but they’ve got another eight months to figure out who should stay and who should go.

On ESPN Insider, Keith Law was less enthusiastic about the return on Lackey, but only because Law is operating under the dubious assumption that the pitcher would indeed pitch for the league minimum in 2015. (Spoiler alert: he wouldn’t…)

Craig’s only due $25.5 million over the next three years. So even if he only gets back to a 2-WAR level, he’ll be a good value. If he’s still limited by the Lisfranc fracture he suffered in his foot last year, perhaps another offseason of rest will help restore his old production.

Was Lackey worth more than this given his salary for next year? Assuming he’s true to his word and won’t hold out or demand an extension, I think he was, yes. He’s worth $15-20 million for a full season on the open market. His thrifty contract makes him incredibly valuable for one year, perhaps even valuable enough that his team deserved a higher-impact player than either Craig or Kelly.

Jake Peavy Goes to the Giants
Like Calcaterra’s view on the Lester/Cespedes deal, Tony Blengino on FanGraphs applauded the Peavy deal as a Win-Win for both sides:

The Red Sox and Giants struck a Saturday morning near-trading deadline special, with Jake Peavy headed west in exchange for pitching prospects Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree, with the clubs splitting Peavy’s $5M remaining 2014 salary. As with most of this month’s trades to date, real, actual, solid prospects were netted by the selling club. In this case, they’re both pretty close to big league ready. Before anyone rushes to call this a clear win for the Giants – Peavy is 1-9, 4.72, for the season, after all – let’s take a closer look at what the Giants are getting, and how Peavy fits into his new environment.

We wish Peavy luck in San Fran, where he should see a reversal of fortune thanks to a larger outfield in his home park that will potentially suppress a few homers over the final two months. As Blengino noted, that one win over the span of nearly four months can’t be blamed on a simple loss of stuff from Peavy.

Truth be told, post-peak Jake Peavy was never a particularly good fit in Fenway Park. He has always been a fairly extreme fly ball pitcher, and that in general is not a good thing to be in that environment. Utilizing my own 2013 park factors, based on granular batted ball data, Fenway had the second highest fly ball park factor, at a whopping 151.1. It’s been ever worse in 2014, at 165.5. Routine fly balls often become doubles in Fenway. Overall, including all batted ball types, Fenway had the highest doubles park factor in 2013, at 125.

Drew to the Yankees; Miller to the Orioles
Finally, the Sox let their two division rivals sweat it out a while on Thursday before dealing a couple of useful veterans to the Yankees and Orioles as they tool up for what could be a hotly contested AL East race. By the time news of these two deals came through just before 4 p.m., they almost felt like afterthoughts. However, the Red Sox acquired another top 100 left-handed pitching prospect from the O’s in 21-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez. Boston saves some cash by sending the remaining two months of Stephen Drew’s contract to New York in exchange for Kelly Johnson. Any other year, this could be looked upon by cynics as the team unnecessarily aiding its biggest rival. But with Oakland adding Lester to its staff and Detroit swinging a trade for David Price, the marginal upgrade of adding Drew does little to shift the balance of power in the American League pennant race away from three clear favorites in Oakland, Detroit and Anaheim.

Theo Poaches Doubront
Former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein acquired Felix Doubront from Boston on Wednesday in exchange for a player to be named later. A sly move on Epstein’s part, he gets a durable left-handed starter for what is likely to be pennies on the dollar.

One More Year of Koji?
For those lamenting a less recognizable roster in 2015, Sean McAdam reported Monday that executives in the industry expected the Red Sox to extend a qualifying offer to Koji Uehara for 2015. The club resisted the urge to deal the closer as part of its myriad dealings yesterday, electing instead to retain him for the remainder of the season in order to keep its qualifying offer in tact.


If the Sox dealt Uehara, there would be nothing to stop them from attempting to re-sign him after the season, as they might do in the case of a trade involving either Miller or Lester…But they would lose the mechanism of the qualifying offer and have to compete with other teams, some of whom might be willing to give him more than a year. If the Sox hold onto Uehara and he’s offered $15 million for next season, it’s inconceivable that he would turn that down.

Could Christian Vazquez Be the Goods?
On FoxSports.com, Gabe Kapler wrote that Boston’s 3-2 win against the Rays on Sunday was due in large part to the rookie catcher’s “quiet glove”:

It took an advanced receiver to effectively manage the likes of Allen Webster on this day. Webster featured a heavy sinker and was all over the strike zone, in and out, throwing 42 strikes and 44 balls. A handful of those strikes were a figment of the umpire’s imagination, a credit to Vazquez’s confident, delicate pitch-framing ability….

Throughout the game, however, Vazquez handled every type of pitch beautifully – and in various locations. He set up quietly, displaying his target with ideal timing, was visibly invested in the batter’s setup, and in charge of the pitcher at every turn. Additionally, he manipulated and condensed his body to present an ideal target.

With the influx of pitching talent on its way to Boston over the past week, it’s nice to know that the team has two of the game’s best catching prospects in Vazquez and Blake Swihart.

This Week in Boston Baseballing, July 12 – 18

Boston took two of three against the Astros in Houston before heading off for a four-day All-Star Break hiatus. The team enters the second half of the season 9 ½ games out of the race for first place in the AL East.

Dustin Pedroia (2.6) and Brock Holt (2.2) are the team’s leading position players in terms of WAR. Jon Lester (4.2) and John Lackey (2.4) pace the pitching staff.

According to FanGraphs’ projections page, the Red Sox have a 6.2% chance of making the playoffs as either the winner of the AL East or as one of the two Wild Card teams that face off in a one-game series prior to the American League Division Series. However, FG reckons they have just a 1.1% shot at making the ALCS. In other words, basically every player would have to outperform their projected stat lines for the remainder of the season for the team to climb back into things.

The 2014 Season’s Parallels With 1996 Aren’t So Bad…
It has been rare for a Red Sox team to struggle this mightily this early in the season over the past few decades. Even during the abortive 2012 season under Bobby Valentine, the team had postseason aspirations well into July.

This season, by comparison, has been much more akin to 1996. But that does not have to be a bad thing. From Matt Martinelli on the Improper Bostonian website:

Making their major-league debuts in 1996 were Trot Nixon (a cameo game for the former first-round pick) and Nomar Garciaparra, who shot through the minor leagues at a Mookie Betts pace. Youth won the day on that 1996 squad, which got its most valuable contributions on the offensive side from the 20-something crew of Vaughn, Valentin, Naehring, O’Leary, Bragg and even Jeff Frye. Garciaparra’s one month of play set him up for his dazzling 1997 rookie year, and the 1998-99 playoff appearances for the Sox.

A repeat of the 1996 season, which included an action packed final two months, a ton of playing time for the young kids, and an exciting charge by the free-agent-to-be ace pitcher is about what Sox fans should be hoping for at this point. Oh, and if the Sox go on a run to win twice as many games as they lose (like they did to end 1996), that would put them at 88 wins. It might be good enough for a division title in this parity-filled year. Maybe something might be a bit different from 1996 after all.

The following season in 1997 wasn’t exactly a bowl of fun, but by and large the Sox were competitive into late summer during each of the final years of the Duquette regime in 1998-2002. And that was with a John Harrington ownership group and the coaching staff that was strife with turmoil and mis-management. A similar wave of young talent in addition to a much more competent ownership group and front office should take the sting out of one outlying year of underperformance.

Is Jon Lester a Goner?
On Wednesday, ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian brought up the “real possibility” that Jon Lester may be in a different uniform next season. The Red Sox offered Lester a lowball offer of four years at $70 million earlier this spring. The team has since done the high-wire act during the first half of the season, basically leaving the door open for more serious offers without actually extending a more serious offer. The front office has greased the skids for his departure. Whether or not they have done so intentionally or they have simply fumbled these negotiations beyond repair is completely debatable and open to interpretation.

The $70m offer may not be all that unreasonable, though. Back in March, we wrote about Lester’s contract in the context of how the team has handled David Ortiz, who the club has never let reach true free agency. The Red Sox have paid Ortiz well to be a cornerstone of the roster, one of the better DH’s in the game but by no means a steal in terms of value because he brings no defensive value.

As a left-handed pitcher in his early 30s, Lester might simply be destined for a nine-figure deal one way or another. He is more underwhelming from the perspective of star power and charisma than a guy like Ortiz. Nevertheless, the best guess here is that he slots in at about 5 years and $125 million. There is a chance some team loses its mind and goes even higher and/or longer. If that’s the case, we’d prefer if that temporary insanity belongs to a team other than the Red Sox.

David Ortiz’s Latest Extension and What it Might Mean for Jon Lester

News of David Ortiz’s contract extension is drawing a variety of viewpoints from People With Opinions regarding whether the proverbial “hometown discount” has played a role in Papi’s compensation. It’s a pretty amusing argument given that Ortiz has never been paid more than $14 million in a given season. On the other hand, he’s been paid about $125 million up to this point, counting 2014. The basis for any kind of discount debate basically comes down to the intellectual dishonesty of either ignoring how little Ortiz was paid as he was proving himself to be a superstar or ignoring the cumulative amount of money he’s earned because he has been successful in Boston.

Looking at his annual WAR and corresponding salaries, Big Papi was basically grossly underpaid during his peak seasons and then essentially paid aptly during his declining years. On an extracurricular level, Ortiz has also obviously cashed in on his local hero status (as he should).

Since Ortiz first became a Red Sox in 2003, the price per one WAR has gone from around $3.0 million, based on FanGraphs.com estimates, to close to $6.0 million per WAR this year (based on expected production versus the money doled out for free agents who signed during the 2013-2014 winter).

One of these years, given his age, Ortiz is likely to fall apart, whether it’s gradually – due to decreased bat speed – or more abruptly as a result of an injury. Or, Ortiz could still be on the team in 2016 and 2017, based on the extension announced today. There are vesting club/incentive options for 2016 and another club option for 2017. Both of which are based on plate appearances and could very well lead to some discomfort if Ortiz enters into a prolonged funk at the plate and begins losing ABs as a DH.

There are therefore a number of possibilities for scaling up Ortiz’s salaries based on his performance. We can assume the team has at least in theory allocated $16 million for each of the next three seasons, 2015-2017, in the event he continues to defy the odds. It’s hard to imagine Ortiz hitting all escalators, but since the deal has been done in part to appeal to his pride, you have to figure there is at least a non-zero chance that he earns $16 million in 2017 if he, say, hits 30 home runs at age 40 during the 2016 season. If all that were to happen, here would be the breakdown of his time with the team.

David Ortiz salary projection

As shown in the chart above, if we look forward to the next three seasons for Ortiz, using his projected 2014 WAR of 2.5 as a baseline and assuming he loses about 0.5 WAR of productivity each season, Big Papi can be expected to ultimately net around $173 million in salary over the course of his Red Sox career while producing about 46 WAR overall in a Boston uniform. That works out to a payout of around $3.8 million per WAR.

Based on that production, the Red Sox will have gotten $20 million in surplus value thanks to his output in peak years.

Meanwhile, all of this could be instructive when trying to figure out what Jon Lester’s “hometown discount” extension, which seems to be an inevitability, may look like. With Ortiz more or less guaranteed to end his career with the Red Sox, it looks as though the team has established something of a baseline for what it will pay to keep a fan favorite around longer than it perhaps would normally stomach.

Projection systems have Lester pegged around 3.5 to 4.0 WAR this season. We’ve taken the higher end forecast for the purposes here and stepped it forward five years. Lester’s decline isn’t likely to be very linear. But assuming on average the same 0.5 decline annually, he’s a decent bet to generate 12.5 WAR in total over five years. This seems reasonable given his age and that he’s a lefty. (Maybe he starts being a “crafty” southpaw and stuff.)

If the Sox and Lester agreed to a five-year, $125 million extension, he would wind up with the exact same cumulative WAR as Ortiz over essentially the same amount of time (14-15 years) and right around the same total compensation ($169 million for Lester versus $173 million for Ortiz).

Jon Lester salary projection

Five years and $125 million seems like way more than the Red Sox would be willing to give any pitcher given their past track record. John Lackey hasn’t been quite the disaster many want to believe after all, but the team hasn’t come close to revisiting a five-year deal approaching nine figures since. Then again, if Lester doesn’t sign now and pitches well during 2014, he may be a goner given that Max Scherzer supposedly turned down six years and $144 million (as ESPN’s Gordon Edes noted in the article linked above).

To bring this back full circle, one can argue pretty easily that something like a five-year, $100 million deal would indeed represent a substantial “hometown discount” on Lester’s part. After all, he has – albeit more quietly and often with a scowl – done nearly as much for the Red Sox as Ortiz.

Meanwhile, since Lester began his career with Boston and was paid minimum salaries while under the club’s exclusive control, it’s conceivable that he could end up generating about $50-60 million in surplus value, even if he does get that $125 million deal as modeled above. Lester has never even come close to being paid more than the WAR value he’s generated. The team has benefited more from Lester than Ortiz on a cost-of-production basis because he was developed internally and was extended at a team-friendly deal near the end of his rookie contract.

It’s just business as usual for a front office that is proving to be adept at valuing its assets and making shrewd business decisions. The Red Sox aren’t going to be getting any hometown discounts from Ortiz or Lester because they’ve already gotten them. And it’s unlikely either player feels obligated to extend a discount, regardless of what they may tell the media when the question inevitably comes up, in one form or another. Unfortunately, that’s not the type of narrative that warms the heart or generates a whole hell of a lot of page hits and drive-time callers.

 

This Week in Boston Baseballing, Dec. 6 – 12

A very quiet Winter Meetings session for the Red Sox. Boston’s front office flew down to Disney World in relatively good shape and left Orlando yesterday in essentially the same state. The team’s most significant activity over the past few days was a reported minor league deal with 37-year-old Japanese submariner Shunsuke Watanabe.

The AL Managers Luncheon Photo
Check out Joe Maddon’s hair hat.


Mike Napoli Re-Signs with Boston
As it turns out, failing his physical last winter will net Mike Napoli some extra cash. The 1B/DH re-upped with the Red Sox for two years and $32 million, a $3-mil per year raise over his initial three year, $36 million deal originally signed at the end of the 2012 season.

It’s hard to fault the front office for being overly cautious when Napoli was first diagnosed with a degenerative hip condition when he went in for a physical last winter. With a year’s worth of intel to work with and little else on the market, the Red Sox pay extra for their caution, but have a better knowledge of how Napoli fits on the team in 2014-2015. Everything turned out pretty well for both sides in the end.

Japan’s Rakuten Golden Eagles Want to Play the 2013 Red Sox
From BostInno’s Hayden Bird:

Hiroshi Mikitani, the owner of the Rakuten Golden Eagles, is apparently a little taken aback by the claim from the Red Sox that they are world champions. Given that Major League Baseball teams are based in only two countries, it is admittedly difficult to claim such an international prize as the title “world champions” implies. And since Mikitani’s Golden Eages won the Japan Series earlier this year, he feels that the two champions should meet to decide the rightful world champion.

In January 2006, MLB’s 2005 World Series champion White Sox actually did play Bobby Valentine’s Chibe Lotte Marines in a seven game series and dispatched their Japanese counterpart in five games.

Schilling To Provide Color on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball
Aw fuck.

The Team Expands Its Fenway Liquor License
You’ll now be able to buy beers up until the end of the 7th inning no matter how damn long the game has already been under way. The ruling is of course a landmark for fans attending Red Sox-Yankees games, which typically run longer than any other matchup in the majors.

From MassLive:

The Red Sox will now be allowed to sell alcohol until the conclusion of the 7th inning, regardless of how long the innings last. Prior to the ruling, alcohol sales at Fenway concluded two hours after first pitch or at the bottom of the 7th inning, whichever came first. The commissioners said that the 7th inning stoppage of alcohol sales would create more consistency in the sale of alcohol because the two-hour mark in some games can come as early as the 5th inning.

The Matt Kemp Rumor Mill
In his preview of the Winter Meetings on Grantland, Jonah Keri broached the subject of Boston meeting with the LA front office in Orlando to discuss a Matt Kemp trade:

Boston is the team most frequently linked to Kemp. The Red Sox lost Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees, and might not yet be willing to give Jackie Bradley Jr. the starting center field job. Of course, one big reason the Red Sox just won the World Series is that they dumped a quarter-billion dollars in contracts on the Dodgers in August 2012; it might be counterintuitive for Boston to turn around and take a huge contract back from the same trade partner.

Kemp is reportedly off the market as of this writing. Which definitely means he’s still on the market.

Jon Lester and a Contract Extension
The Herald’s Scott Lauber has Cherington publicly acknowledging that the team is exploring a contract extension beyond 2014 for Jon Lester. Lester turns 30 in January and, since he’s a pitcher, it’s not unreasonable to think his best years are still ahead of him. Using Philadelphia’s six-year, $144 million deal with Cole Hamels in 2012 would be by far the largest contract for a pitcher in team history.

Frozen Fenway Will Include a Sledding Hill
Obviously the proceeds from this endeavor will help the Sox pay Masahiro Tanaka, right? MLB didn’t take into account the unbalanced profitability of the offseason sledding hill paradigm when it implemented a $189 million luxury tax threshold. This is a market inefficiency that Boston is poised to exploit.

fenway sledding hill

Artist rendering from Boston.com, as supplied by the Red Sox.

Terse Predictions: 2013 World Series Game 5, Boston @ St. Louis

The 2013 World Series is tied two games apiece heading into Monday night’s Game 5. Some unnecessarily specific, under-explained predictions:

1. Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright will each pitch exactly six innings.

2. One starting pitcher is going to strike out twice as many batters as the other starter.

3. Both starters will walk multiple batters.

4. Lester will hit a single off Wainwright.

5. Both starters will hold the opposing offense scoreless during the first turn through the batting order.

6. Koji Uehara will record an out(s) in an inning other than the 9th.

7. Stephen Drew will hit a double in the game.

8. Cards closer Trevor Rosenthal will record a total of three outs.

Terse Predictions: 2013 World Series, Game 1 – St. Louis Cardinals @ Boston Red Sox

Highly specific forecasts for the opening game of the 2013 World Series tonight at Fenway Park.

1. The Cardinals will take a lead against the Red Sox in a World Series game for the first time in 46 years.

2. Adam Wainwright will record six more outs in the game than Jon Lester.

3. Total runs scored in the game will be somewhere between five and eight runs. Overall, only two earned runs will be charged to the starting pitchers.

4. Mike Napoli will strike out thrice, but also add an extra-base hit of some sort.

5. Dustin Pedroia will hit a double off the left-field wall on the first pitch he sees during one of his at-bats against Wainwright.

6. The Red Sox will issue two intentional walks – one to Carlos Beltran and one to Allen Craig.

7. Only one player will record multiple base hits in the game.

8. Xander Bogaerts’ Total Pitches Seen: 17

9. Koji Uehara’s Total Pitches Thrown: 17

10. MLB “Special Consultant” Tony LaRussa’s blood-alcohol content by game-end: .17