As per Nick Cafardo’s Sunday column in the Boston Globe, Jon Lester has “been on the Pirates’ radar” along with the usual suspects of Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Matt Garza, and Ryan Dempster. Carfardo goes on to say that, “It doesn’t appear the Sox would deal unless they got exceptional value back, and it doesn’t appear the Pirates would part with pitching prospect Gerrit Cole, whom the Sox would want.”
Lester, 28, is a left-hander that has a triple pitching slash line in 2012 over 112 IP of 4.49 ERA/3.58 FIP/3.61 xFIP, good for a 2.5 WAR to this point. As you can see, he may be getting a tad unlucky, as his ERA is 0.91 runs above his FIP. His K/9 rate is down significantly in the last couple of years — from 9.74 in 2010 to 7.53 in 2012.
With Cole being the price, I would file this one under “kicking the tires” for now.
In the same column, Cafardo says the Pirates have also inquired about Jason Vargas with the Mariners. Vargas, 29, and also a left-hander, has had a different shape of a triple slash line than Lester in 2012 over 126 IP. His line of 4.07 ERA/4.86 FIP/4.31 xFIP (0.4 WAR) may belie a regression in the future.
Vargas is a more likely trade candidate, as the Mariners are far out of the race, and entering his final year of arbitration at the end of the year. Vargas makes $4.85M in 2012. Lester makes $7.625M in 2012, $11.625M in 2013, and has a club option in 2014 for $13M ($250K buyout).