By Jeff Louderback
The answer remains to be seen, but I firmly believe that trading Lester would be a mistake, unless he is included in a package that would yield Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, a move that the Mariners are not going to make.
Earlier this week, multiple media outlets noticed Kansas City Star baseball writer Bob Dutton’s suggestion that the Royals could land Lester for Myers, which would give the Royals a top of the rotation arm without sacrificing established core players like Alex Gordon and Billy Butler and promising young Major Leaguers such as Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer.
For the deal to work, the Red Sox would likely send an outfielder like Ryan Sweeney to Kansas City and the Royals would throw in a top pitching prospect like Jake Odorizzi or Kyle Zimmer since Lester is a veteran with a successful track record (2012 notwithstanding) and Myers has not played an inning in the majors.
Lester has his detractors among media members who cover the Red Sox and impatient Red Sox fans. The left-hander, who will be 29 in January, deserves criticism for his performance in 2012, when he was 9-14 with a 4.82 ERA and was a key reason why the Red Sox flopped.
However, Lester is 85-48 with a 3.76 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP over seven Major League seasons. From 2008 to 2011, he won 16, 15, 19 and 15 games respectively and logged ERAs of 3.21, 3.41, 3.25 and 3.47 during those seasons. Few pitchers matched those numbers.
Lester is also durable, having logged 200-plus innings in all but the 2011 campaign, when he registered 191.2 innings. He has eclipsed 30 starts in each of his five full seasons in the majors.
Though Lester has yet to prove he is a legitimate No. 1 starter, at the least he is a solid No. 3 arm, and his winning percentage indicates that the Red Sox usually thrive when he is on the mound.
The 21-year-old Myers is undoubtedly an intriguing prospect. He was named Baseball America’s 2012 Minor League Player of the Year after batting .314 with 37 home runs, 109 RBI and a .987 OPS between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha. The power numbers are hard to quantify since the Texas League and the Pacific Coast League are composed of ballparks that are offensive havens. Still, Myers appears to be an outfielder who will hit for average and serve as a run producer. His defense is considered average at best.
The Red Sox have a vacancy in right field that could be filled by re-signing Cody Ross and eventually giving top prospect Bryce Brentz a chance. The recently signed Jonny Gomes will likely be part of a left field platoon with Ryan Kalish.
The Red Sox need to add an arm to their rotation, and not subtract a power left-hander who starts 30-plus games and tosses 200 innings. The combination of Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront and John Lackey can be a strength in 2013, especially with the return of John Farrell.
Lester, who will receive $11.6 million in 2013 and has a team option for $13 million in 2014, has the stuff to rebound and give the Red Sox a top of the rotation starter next season. Dealing him for anyone but in a package for a proven ace like Hernandez would not be wise.