(Photo Credit: David Hague)

Latest Jon Lester Rumors: Pirates and Cardinals Pushing the Hardest

Jon Lester won’t be making his start today, as we learned last night he would be scratched in anticipation for a trade. The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the mix, but the cost is going to be high. I wrote about that cost last night, while also looking at some players who could be given up for Lester. Here are the latest rumors on Lester, with updates throughout the day.

Buster Olney says that the NL Central teams are just as interested in blocking their rivals from making a move.

The fact that the NL Central is so close, and all three teams would be looking for pitching, adds a new level to this. We heard yesterday that the Brewers aren’t in on Lester, so that just leaves the Pirates and Cardinals as the NL Central teams going after him. Lester is worth a little less than two projected wins over the remainder of the season. Getting him would be stealing two wins away from the other NL Central team.

Nick Cafardo says the Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers, and Mariners are Lester suitors entering Wednesday.

This is the first that the Mariners have been mentioned. Yesterday the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Athletics were mentioned as in the mix.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today wrote an article on the trade demands for the top pitchers. He said that the Red Sox want two Grade A prospects for Lester. The expected demand for Price is three elite level prospects. He also repeats something that was brought up yesterday, where the Rays could get Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller, and a 2015 comp pick from the Cardinals for Price. I’m not sure what Nightengale is defining as Grade A or elite, or if they’re the same thing. But if the cost for two months of Lester is two top prospects, and the cost for 14 months of Price, plus the comp pick you’d get when he leaves, is three top prospects, then either Price seems like the better value, or Lester costs too much.

Travis Sawchik says that Josh Bell, Nick Kingham, and JaCoby Jones is seen as a reasonable asking price, according to one talent evaluator.

That would be a very high price to pay for two months of Lester. They can afford to deal Jones. I think Bell is too much for Lester, considering the upside with his bat. Then you’ve got Kingham, who is close to major league ready, has a very high floor, and projects as a strong middle of the rotation starter who can eat 200 innings per year. That’s a lot to give up for a rental.

UPDATE 4:28 PM: Nick Cafardo from The Boston Globe says the Red Sox have an asking price for Lester, one Major League player and prospects

UPDATE 4:48 PM: Dave Schoenfield from ESPN believes the Pirates are the most likely destination for Lester

UPDATE 11:58 PM: Pirates are still in it according to Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal.

It looks like this one will be between the Cardinals and the Pirates. Rosenthal says the Dodgers are still involved, but everything I’ve seen says they don’t want to give up any of their top three prospects.


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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • David Lewis

    Bell, Kingham, and Jones for two months of Lester only makes sense if the MLB talent evaluator works for the Red Sox.

  • Sven_Hunkstrom

    Bell, Kingham, and Jones for Lester would be a firing offense.

  • Ben Swogger

    Those three for two months of Lester is asinine

  • LongJohnSilver

    My thought is that we forget Lester, and go after someone like Collin McHugh. Outside of his W/L record, his stats are pretty darn impressive.

    • lonleylibertarian

      What is the upside on a McHugh – we have Cumpton – Kingham – Sadler – Sampson sitting in the minors – no room for them – who goes down to add McHugh?

      Don’t get me wrong – he is a “nice” pitcher – but he is not a top of the rotation guy like Lester or Price – any trade needs to add a top arm for the playoffs/WS now that the Bucs are in shouting distance of the Brewers.

      • LongJohnSilver

        I guess my problem is that I still don’t see Cumpton or Sadler as stable options, and granted, they still might prove to be so.. Kingham is still what, a year away? MeHugh is proving that he can pitch, and he has years of control yet. He isn’t a Price by any means, but his cost would be something that we could probably deal with in terms of prospects and salary.

      • Steve Williams

        McHugh is not a bad pitcher – but not an upgrade over the Bucs current rotation. And he’s not exactly a youngster – already 27.

    • FrankRestly

      I was thinking the Pirates should go after Ian Kennedy of the Padres. His 2013 salary ($4.3 million) is about a third of what Lester is being paid. Granted Kennedy is a righty and so if the Pirates are convinced they need lefty starting pitching, then Kennedy would not fill the bill.

      Kennedy this year: 1.22 WHIP, 143 Strikeouts / 42 Walks, 3.66 ERA
      Lester this year: 1.12 WHIP, 149 Strikeouts / 32 Walks, 2.52 ERA

      The funny thing about Lester is that his ERA this year is a full run lower than his career ERA (3.64). Not sure how much of that drop in ERA is luck / defense / skill. Kennedy’s career ERA is about 3.96.

      • LongJohnSilver

        Kennedy would be a nice pickup, however my concern there is that he is a FA after next year, and a Boras client. :)

        • FrankRestly

          After next year is the key phrase. Liriano and Volquez may both be gone after this year which would leave you with Cole, Morton, Locke, and Worley as the only established starters at the beginning of next year.

          A straight up trade Kennedy for Josh Bell would make a lot of sense unless you think that Kingham / Tallion / Sadler will make an immediate splash in the majors next year.

  • lonleylibertarian

    I have come to believe that Price is not only the better pitcher – but the better deal – as Starkey notes this morning – he could be flipped next year – or even in this off season to get back at least part of the prospect loss.

    A core of Liriano, Cole and Price gives the Bucs a good shot at this year – and sets them up for next year very nicely.

    He will likely cost close to $20M in arb – but that should be affordable with Volquez and Frankie off the books. If AJ was worth $12 for a year – Price is worth $18-20 easily…

    And adding Price would make Kingham expendable for the short term…

    Then there is the keeping him from the Cards angle…

    • Andrew

      If Price can be flipped in the winter, the cost now will be higher, which is assuming Price is traded.

      $20 million on one player is an absurd risk profile, that is optimistically 1/5 of your payroll committed to one player, pitchers are durable until they aren’t.

      I keep seeing the Cardinals aren’t wont to move top prospects, you can certainty differ in opinion but I think the Pirates should model the Cardinals not the Brewers.

      • lonleylibertarian

        Well the Cards “model” is a payroll way over $100M a year – and has been for some time.
        I don’t understand why Price is not worth twice what the Bucs were willing to spend on AJ for one year – and he won’t cost that much in Arb.

        • Andrew

          Opportunity cost and risk profile, the Pirates paid Burnett $8 million when he was here. Give $8-10 million to a 2.0-3.0 WAR pitcher and you still have $10 million to spend on upgrades elsewhere, Martin extension? Thus you have spread the injury risk over two players instead of one.

          I think that sustained period of rarely paralleled winning has an impact on payroll.

        • rickster

          The argument against $20m on price isn’t based on his value but on the limitations placed on being able to build the rest of a competitive small market team. Ie sign martin!!

          • lonleylibertarian

            I guess I am a pessimist on Martin – for several reasons…
            1. Catchers often to age poorly – Fisk was a rare exception – look at how Molina went from an All Star to possible career ending injury. Carter and Bench saw their skill decline rapidly in their mid 30s…
            2. I think Martin will be in very high demand – he will be able to to talk about 4-5 years – not the 2-3 that the Bucs might be comfortable with.
            3. And if that isn’t bad enough, the bidding will probably start at closer to $15M a year than $10M…
            So unless he is willing to give the Bucs a discount it might cost $75M and 5 years to keep Martin from a team like the Angels or Red Sox.

            Best hope for the Bucs is a QO and he decides to wait a year to sign the last big deal…

            • Andrew

              I generally consider myself a pessimist this is a bit morbid, $75 million?

              1) Cather aging is not a cliff, I was bearish on Martin offensive going forward but he seems to have reversed his trend of selling out for pull power, which usually means the end is near offensively. He isn’t as good as his current numbers but a league average hitter with elite defense has value.


              2)I think Pittsburgh based writers/bloggers might be suffering form a bit of the availability bias, Martin is much better than the line of McKenry/Barajas/Synder/Doumit but there really isn’t any evidence that teams will pay for catcher defense and that is Martin main selling point.

              3)Angles have Iannetta for another season and he is a quality back stop, Boston has 22 yo Blake Swihart hitting in AA, and was just ranked #13 overall mid-season, Boston is smart they aren’t going to block top prospects with multi-year deals. The only really large revenue team in the market for a catcher would be the Dodgers, so he may get a large offer the Pirates cannot match. But at that point he would likely be paid in excess of value, which them comes back to the issue of opportunity cost.

              • lonleylibertarian

                I really hope I am wrong – but the economics of baseball are pretty screwy right now.,,

  • goober21

    If those 3 were going to Boston it better be Lester, A. Miller, and a pretty decent prospect coming back to Pittsburgh.

    • AwakenedAngryAmerican

      Actually. Bell, Kingman and JaCoby for Lester and Miller is steep. But. Lester could get us over the hump. He will make Liriano better. Cole Better. And a tough man to beat at PNC. Yes. Let’s try it. I’m ok with it. Alvarez will be gone for a couple prospects this offseason.

    • AwakenedAngryAmerican

      Actually. Bell, Kingman and JaCoby for Lester and Miller is steep. But. Lester could get us over the hump. He will make Liriano better. Cole Better. And a tough man to beat at PNC. Yes. Let’s try it. I’m ok with it. Alvarez will be gone for a couple prospects this offseason.

  • moose7195

    I hate how people try to project how many wins Jon Lester will add. It’s a fools notion to consider him infallible, and we all should know better by now seeing how every trade deadline these past 3-4 years has seen the Pirates trade decent value for at least one dud. If he comes in and is just average, then the Pirates lose this trade massively. Especially if the cost is what that idiot talent evaluator thinks is fair

    • AwakenedAngryAmerican

      He would be our #1. Yes. He puts are chances to WIN outright the Central. A game or 2 could mean the difference of watching the wild card game to see who wins that one game series. We need to find a way to break thru vs. Milwaukee. Lester could show us the way.

  • leadoff

    IMO, dealing to stop the other teams from getting Lester is the wrong approach, the Pirates can win even if the other teams get Lester, he is not the end all to winning the pennant, if he was, Boston would be in the mix for a pennant. IMO, the Pirates will make a solid run at the flag no matter whether they bring anyone in or not, of course Lester helps them, so does some pen help, so does Alvarez finding himself, Ike hitting like he is capable of, Sanchez actually doing anything.

  • pantherfan83

    The cardinals cant afford to make any deal considering they are a small market team. If would devastate that franchise.

  • st1300b

    Wow, that seems like someone just trying to up the ante to me. I am cautiously, but somewhat confidently assuming that NH’s statements the other day that elite level prospects are NOT on the table or available still stands true. I really really hope so. Bell could be the next Bobby Bonilla and I don’t think that is worth a SP – under any circumstances. I want that bat in the lineup for the next decade – what a joke this guy is for saying it’s ‘reasonable’.

  • Stephen Stasa

    What players have the Cardinals and Dodgers (and any other teams in on Lester) been rumored to be offering and what would be comparable for the Pirates? That’s a better indicator of what Lester would cost. This isn’t about want Boston *wants*, it’s all about what other teams are willing to give.

    Here’s why:
    Lester’s only value to the Red Sox (if they hold on to him) at this point is to get a comp pick if he signs elsewhere as a FA. If there were no buyers, he’d be traded for next to nothing. If he gets to waivers, there’ll only be one team that Boston can negotiate with thus eliminating any bidding that could push the price any higher than the minimum Boston would consider better than holding on to him. Whatever the high bid ends up being, it’ll certainly be more valuable than a 1st round pick and be higher than it’ll be if traded from the waiver wire, so Boston will almost certainly move him before the deadline.

    Stated another way:
    I’m trying to sell an item for $100 but I’m willing to part with it if I can get at least $10. I’m getting offers of $18, 14€, and 0.4g of gold. Let’s say I’m moving so I have to sell it by tomorrow, keep it, or sell it for whichever offer comes from the team with the worst record (at that point, knowing they’re the only bidder, they can lower the offer too). The $100 hope is irrelevant to the actual selling price. Only the $10 minimum and the 3 offers matter. So why is everything about the requested price when talking about trades?

  • R Edwards

    No, no, and no!!! Not for a 2 month rental, who will start no more than 8-10 games – and then take the big money in the Winter and leave Pittsburgh. No, thank you. I’d rather keep my 2-3 top level prospects and stick to a longer range plan – even if it means missing the playoffs this year. I want to be in the hunt for the next several years, not just this year.

    • AwakenedAngryAmerican

      This is one of those times to pay a steep price. It gives a shot now. These guys are prospects with high expectations. But they are a 2 year wait. Lester improves our chances IMMENSELY to win the division. To watch a one game wild card. If Liriano and Cole are made better by removing the weight ACE carries with it. Because Lester would be our clear #1. Having already won a World Series as an ace. Liriano has shown signs of returning to 2013 form. I’m sure he sees he will be our second best LH starter with the talent to compete with Lester. And Cole will be a second year starter who can slot as the #3 today with #1 talent in 3 (or sooner) years. Just him watching Lester and seeing first hand how an ace does it. That is PLUS-PLUS for our future.

  • R Edwards

    Cole is due back soon – when he does return, who gets bumped from the rotation? I assume it will be one of Locke, Volquez, or Worley. Which means, someone then gets DFA’d – likely Frieri (thank you!)…..

    If we traded for Lester – which I hope we don’t if it costs 2-3 top prospects – who would then get bumped out of the rotation – and who would then get DFA’d?

    I personally don’t think the rotation is as much of a problem as is the bullpen. Would it be a lot cheaper to go get a Benoit, Ziegler, Miller, or Bastardo?

    • moose7195

      And there is nothing wrong with the way Liriano is pitching right now. He was exceptional in the postseason last year, and he very well could fill that role again

    • goober21

      Benoit ain’t cheap. I’m surprised the Bucs were interested in him at all at that price tag. I can’t believe relievers ever get that kind of contract.

      • R Edwards

        I didn’t say cheap, but cheaper than Lester.

    • S Brooks

      Two weeks ago I assumed Worley would get bumped, but the cracks in Volquez are starting to show. He’s still stranding runners at an exceptional rate, so the ERA is still low, but he’s allowing way too many baserunners, and that’ll bit him eventually. Volquez gets bumped when Cole returns, barring injury.

      The dominoes fall. Bullpen loses either Frieri or Wilson, who can be optioned. The fact that the Bucs have been looking for LH RPs leads me to believe Wilson is in jeopardy.

      If you get Cole back AND add Lester…that’s where it gets interesting. I think Worley goes to the pen, and the other of Frieri and Wilson is off the squad.

      • AwakenedAngryAmerican

        Volquez is more suited for pen. But Locke has options. I say we are after Miller, too. The Red Sox may ask for Josh Bell, Harold Ramirez and Austin Meadows.

    • jricentral

      I agree that we shouldn’t give up someone like Bell for Lester, but I’d be willing to part with some value, for a 2-month rental.
      Although our Rotation might be good enough to get us to post-season with the return of Liriano and Cole, adding Lester would give us an almost certain chance, but even better, it gives us a stud to advance in the Play-offs.
      We’re so used to losing that we’re afraid to take the next step to a posible Championship!

      • R Edwards

        I was all for the trade for the rental that Byrd was last year – although that came at a steep price. If the price tag for Lester is say Bell, Kingham, and another top 10-15 prospect of ours – I’d rather miss the playoffs this year and still have those pieces to compete for a championship in the near future.

      • R Edwards

        We could sit here and say we would offer Boston Rojas, Tabata, and Sampson for Lester – but, my guess is they would decline.

        • jricentral

          Lester & Miller could solidify our pitching staff in a big way! Including having one of the Top Pitching Staffs for the Playoffs.
          I’d give up Ramírez & Heredia (#8 & #10 Pirates Prospects) for the Sox pitchers.
          I agree that putting Tabata as a valuable chip in any trade is absurd! If you add him to any other Proapect, you’re actually subtracting value in the trade…

          • R Edwards

            Heredia out of shape and pitching poorly – I doubt he has much trade value right now.

            • jricentral

              Heredia is still quite young, but he’s probably still a bit high ranked at #10. But there are other interesting names to go with Ramirez they could pick, if they dont’t like Heredia (Sampson, Burden, Joely Rodriguez, De La Cruz, etc.).
              Just to give my idea of a fair return for two “very good” 2-month Rental pitchers that can help in the Playoffs!
              Everyone has an opinión, but that’s my 2 cents what I would be willing to give up…

          • AwakenedAngryAmerican

            Not necessarily. After what Tabata went through in his “Made for Lifetime NetworK” saga with his ex-wife being 23 years older than she said. Somehow convincing him she had his baby while he was playing ball. Then stole some other couples baby. She did get 24 years in prison. In essence a young man loses his wife AND a child just before he signs a long term deal after a great start with Pirates could use a change of scenery and a chance. Plus he was a Super Yankee prospect. The Red Sox say 2 top prospects and a ML ready player will get Lester. Tabata is ML ready. But. Would the Red Sox take him. No one claimed in when he was designated because of his long term deal.

            • jricentral

              Tabata’s best upside at this point would be a Corner OF with no power, who might hir for Avg. If any team wants Tabata, all they have to do is pay his remaining salary and they could have him! If not, he would not have cleared waivers…

        • pilbobuggins

          Sure they would,right up until they realized that,or whatever offer the pirates make ,is the best one they are going to get. I still say hanson,sampson and tabata for lester and a reliever gets this done by 4 tommorow.

          • AwakenedAngryAmerican

            It could be Bell, Kingman and Jones for Miller and Lester. Or maybe Bell, another top prospect and Tabata for Lester.

  • Jared

    I completely understand Boston asking for the moon…but, honestly, I am willing to give them one top 100 prospect and a mid-rotation arm and an add-on. They can have Hanson, Sampson, and Tabata. That is, likely, better than what any other team can/will offer them for only 2-months of Lester. The rumors about Martinez and Tavares for Price make sense because they Cards would get him for 14 months and get a comp pick if/when he left. I am not bidding on Price, though, because I don’t want to part with that level of prospects…if they want a top 100 prospect a good mid-rotation arm and a serviceable player like Tabata then fine.

  • Jared

    Just thinking about this…IF the Pirates did trade Bell, Kingham, and Jones for 2mo of Jon Lester I think it may well be the worst trade I have seen even in this sellers market. Consider how MUCH the Pirates would be overpaying: the A’s got two pitchers, one of whom is an Ace with a year and a half of control left, and ended up giving up two top 100 players (one top 5 player) and a former prospect who had been struggling in the majors. The Pirates, for 2mo of Lester, would be giving up 2 top 100 prospects and a breakout prospect who may well qualify as a top 100 prospect in the coming year. The A’s got TWO pitchers AND multiple seasons of control/use out of the Ace they acquired. Talk about overpaying…

    • leowalter

      +++++ Jared. That is the first time I have seen any one use that earlier trade comparison,and makes it much easier to see how lopsided this trade would be.

      • Jared

        I think, honestly, after what was given for Samardzjia and Hammel that the “price” given earlier for Lester would, actually, be MUCH closer to the actual cost for Price. Yes, Russell is a better prospect than either Bell or Kingham, but combined they are both may well equal what the Athletics gave up for Samardzjia. We would be giving up two top 50 prospects and the A’s gave up a top 10 and a top 100.

  • Scott Kliesen

    I can tell you how this is going to go. Red Sox are pitting multiple teams against each other w lies about what they’ve been offered to drive price up and some sucker organization (Dodgers or Mariners fit the criteria) will end up giving up the farm for him, literally. And Pirates GM will say something to effect of I was willing to do something dumb, but not insane to get him.

    • AwakenedAngryAmerican

      Red Sox GM and Huntington are buddies.

  • wilbert matthews

    I got ten bucks that says there is NO WAY the current Pirate brain trust does something this foolish. We didn’t get here by being short sighted. The only possible Lester deal for us that would be defensible is if we did a multi player deal in which we would get Lester as a rental and also Carp and Miller and we send them Tabata, Bell, and Pedro. There are so many other pitchers available that would make more sense.

    • Jared

      Why do you want Carp? He’s no different than Andrew Lambo and Lambo we can get for free by simply calling him up. Additionally, Lambo is 3 years younger than Carp. We need a RH bench bat more than we really need a LH bench bat, but then again anyone who could actually competently swing the bat would be better than Morel and Martinez on the bench.

      • AwakenedAngryAmerican

        Get Brock Holt back?

  • Steve Williams

    Let’s hope NH does nothing. That is BY FAR the best outcome. I wouldn’t trade even Kingham for two months of Lester. Maybe Jones and a so-so pitching prospect. Anything more is nuts!

  • Clemente21

    Boston is delusional.

  • HamburgBucco

    I don’t care how well this guy can pitch if he will only do it for two months for our team.
    I like our farm system and I don’t want to see top prospects being traded away just like that.
    That would be awfully short-sighted and foolish. Five or six seasons out of a promising hitter like Bell (and a similar number of years from a talented pitcher and shortstop) or two months (!!!) from a decent pitcher ? No-brainer really.
    I don’t care if the Cardinals or Brewers get Lester for two months. We have enough in our team to go a long way into the playoffs.
    You can win games with good hitting and it’s not like our pitching is in ruins exactly.
    Let’s keep our prospects and see them come through the system and shine for the Buccos a la McCutchen, Walker, Marte, Polanco.

  • Monsoon Harvard

    This Travis Sawchick tweet sounds like an ‘overly generous’ offer for 14 months of David Price. Not a ‘reasonable’ offer for Lester. I would never even consider that trade for 2 months of Lester.
    It’s more than the A’s gave up for 14 months of Samardjia and Hammel.

  • Patrick Ferrell

    LOL at Bell, Jones and Kingham for a two month rental. In what world does that make sense? I would rather us not get Lester and miss the playoffs then get robbed like that. How does this clown qualify as a MLB talent evaluator?

    • AwakenedAngryAmerican

      If it wins the Central and gets us a better chance to win now. Yes. Remember. Bell was a bonus long shot draft pick who was swayed with over slot money. Our organization will still be great after a deal. AND BETTER ODDS AT A SHOT TO WIN NOW.

      • AwakenedAngryAmerican

        And they are still PROSPECTS. Not locks.

  • Halvy Buckets

    How about Lester & lackey for Bell, kingham and Jones? Thoughts…

    • AwakenedAngryAmerican

      My suggestion earlier. But. They will get more for a proven workhorse SP making ML minimum.

  • Wilbertmatthewsw

    Fans will hate this deal. Dont care if he goes 5-0. Hes a mercinary. And if we run the bases like idiots as we are prone to do, it will all be for naught

    • AwakenedAngryAmerican

      They will love it if we win.

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