Jon Lester spoke to the media upon his arrival in Oakland today.
Here are the highlights, courtesy of my MLB.com teammate extraordinaire Ms. Jane Lee.
Relationship with the Red Sox: “Any time you negotiate with a team and it doesn’t go the way everyone wants it, there’s always a little bit of disappointment, but that’s not to say the effort wasn’t there on both sides to get something done. But my time in Boston will be something I always remember and cherish, from 2002 to yesterday. I’ve got nothing but great things to say about the organization, the way they treated me, treated my family through the good times and bad times. We’ll see where that relationship goes later on, but right now I’m an A and I’m going to go out and perform for these guys and do the best I can to bring the championship here.”
The last last few days: “The anxiety of it, not knowing where you’re going to be … having a family makes it difficult. When you leave someplace you call home for eight years, that made it harder. But, like I said, I’m happy to be here and happy to be a part of this, and hopefully I can contribute.”
Going from Fenway to the Coliseum: “Obviously having the Monster 300 feet away isn’t exactly great for pitching, but it’s a lot more foul territory, bigger in gaps, it’s going to be fun to see what those doubles that scrape the wall are fly balls to left. It’ll be nice to see that instead of the cheap doubles. We’ll see. I’ll just pitch my style and see what happens.”
Familiarity with pitching coach Curt Young: “Huge. That’ll definitely make the transition a little bit easier. You go through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of trials and errors, stuff you get into in bullpens, during a game, and he knows how I am as a competitor and a person. That makes a transition for me as a pitcher, and our catchers, defense, a little bit easier. You don’t have to learn someone all over again. He knows that from a full season, so it’ll make it a lot easier on me and hopefully on the team.”
So, how much sleep did Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington get on Trade Deadline eve?
“Didn’t [sleep] last night and maybe not much the previous couple nights,” Cherington said. “A lot of coffee and other stuff. We had to see what we could do and try to take advantage of the unfortunate position we’re in. Hopefully we were able to do some things that give us a headstart on that.”
The first domino fell between 3 and 4 a.m. Thursday, when Cherington and Billy Beane created a rare blockbuster of All-Star Players. Jon Lester, along with Jonny Gomes, went to the A’s. Yoenis Cespedes, who could give the parking lot behind the Green Monster a workout, comes to the Red Sox.
“I don’t know if I’m going to get the time exactly right — but we had an agreement in principle on like the structure, it was probably between 3-4 this morning,” Cherington said. “And then, you know, you’ve got to get through medicals and Major League approval and all of that stuff, so it doesn’t get really official until later. So sometime in the middle of the night.”
Then, there was the deal that sent John Lackey to the Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. Then, the one that sent Andrew Miller to the Orioles for lefty prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. And finally, the one that sent shortstop Stephen Drew to the Yankees for Kelly Johnson.
Cherington put his battle plan in motion about a week ago, when the Red Sox went through yet another slide that took away the momentum of winning eight of nine.
“We’ve made a series of trades today that we believe give us a good head start on building again and hopefully building towards a very good team as quickly as possible,” Cherington said. “Our intent going into today and really this week was just, given where we were, given where the team was in the standings and given the math that we’re fighting coming into this week, our intent was to try to see what opportunities are out there for us. There was a lot of interest in our players and we wanted to see if there were opportunities to turn that into moves that like, I said, could give us a head start on building again and becoming better as quickly as we can. That was our general sort of guiding philosophy this week and hopefully we turned it into some moves that make us better now and give us a real head start the rest of the season and going into the offseason with the full intent of building a strong contending team for 2015.”
It was a collaborative effort, as Cherington and much of his staff worked into the wee hours of Thursday to re-shape the roster.
“We had a group of 15 or so of us that were sort of consistently in the room, and that’s a combination of front office folks and scouts and ownership’s in and out,” Cherington said. “Roughly 15, and then that gets bigger, gets smaller sometimes. It gets a little smaller by 4 in the morning. But yeah, you know, we were here the whole time.”
That’s been the case for the last week or so.
“Long days and long nights. As everyone knows, you all know, for every trade you do make, there’s 20 or 30 other iterations that don’t come together. Even for the ones you do make, especially bigger ones, and some of these are bigger ones, those require a lot of phone calls, a lot of work from a lot of different people. We haven’t slept much the last three or four days,” Cherington said. “You can probably tell. But we knew coming into this week that we had a job to do: We had to find a way to take advantage of the unfortunate position that we’re in and try to kickstart a little bit building the next team. So that’s what we try to do. It was a great team effort from a lot of people, including ownership, but certainly baseball operations, and John Farrell is involved. We worked around the clock, literally.”
“I think I’m proud of the group that I work with because it’s a group that literally worked around the clock for about 4-5 days to try to do this. And again, time will tell what the results are, but I’m proud of the people I work with for how hard they worked. They were prepared and ready and, you know, everything we needed to give ourselves a chance to make decisions was there thanks to the people that I work with. As far as challenging, I just think this year has been challenging. Use any word you want. It’s been frustrating, disappointing, hard to explain at times, and certainly as I said before, I take responsibility for where we are. So I think the year, it’s not the last two days, it’s the whole year’s been challenging. We’ve got to get better. We know that.”
Thursday might have been the first step back to contention for 2015 and beyond.
Though trading ace Jon Lester is undoubtedly hard for the Red Sox and their fans, it becomes a little easier when you factor in the return. By packaging Lester and Jonny Gomes, the Red Sox get Yoenis Cespedes, an outfielder with the type of power the club currently lacks beyond David Ortiz.
Though the arrival of Cespedes is probably too late to salvage Boston’s postseason hopes this season, he gives them a cornerstone for 2015, and perhaps beyond.
There’s at least a chance Cespedes will debut for the Red Sox on Friday night at Fenway Park in a rivalry matchup with the Yankees.
Cespedes, who is mainly a left fielder but has also started three games in center this season, came over from Cuba in 2012. The Red Sox had interest in him at that time before he signed with Oakland.
The 28-year-old Cespedes signed a four-year, $36 contact when he went to the Athletics. Per terms of his original contract, he can become a free agent if he isn’t re-signed by October 31, 2015, or five days after the last game Boston plays that season.
Though the Red Sox have long valued Lester as a pitcher, a teammate and a leader, his contract expires at the end of this season and the club feared losing him for nothing more than draft compensation.
To this point, Boston had been unable to find common ground on a contract with the lefty, who was masterful last October in helping guide Boston to a World Series title.
A few days ago, Lester told reporters he would still be open to re-signing with the Red Sox even if he got traded.
So there’s at least a chance Boston could have a 2015 roster that features Lester as the ace and Cespedes as a key bat.
For the short term, Lester and Gomes have a legitimate chance to play in the World Series for the second straight season. The Athletics own the best record in the Majors at 66-41.
The sight of watching Cespedes take aim at the Green Monster should bring some joy to Red Sox fans, who have been disenchanted at watching the defending World Series champions get off to a 48-60 start and fall 13 games out in the American League East.
The Red Sox did nothing to diminish rumors that Jon Lester will be traded to a contender when they scratched him from Wednesday night’s start against the Blue Jays.
“Yeah, Brandon Workman will start tomorrow,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “In light of all the uncertainty surrounding Jon Lester, it’s probably in everyone’s best interests that he does not make that start, so Brandon will be recalled. There will be a corresponding move roster-wise at some point tomorrow.”
By scratching Lester from his Wednesday start, the Red Sox could increase the urgency of their suitors to sweeten their offer in advance of Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline.
Also, Lester becomes more attractive to a potential suitor if he can pitch immediately after a trade, rather than having to wait until Monday.
Numerous teams have talked to the Red Sox about Lester, and there was a lot of buzz about the Pirates on Tuesday. The Dodgers are another possible destination, though they’ve thus far been unwilling to part with the type of top prospects (Corey Seager, Joc Pederson) the Red Sox seek. The Marlins have also expressed interest, according to Jim Bowden of MLB Network radio.
While Red Sox veterans were still hoping the lefty would stay, they were bracing for the possibility of his exit.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” said Dustin Pedroia, who came up with Lester through the farm system and has won a pair of World Series titles with him. “We’re not teammates – we’re family. It’s something you don’t like going through. It makes you feel worse. We don’t want to be in this position. I know a lot of guys feel that if you play up to your capability … we should be adding instead of subtracting. Hopefully he’s here.”
Though Jon Lester could well be traded by Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline, two sources told MLB.com that the Red Sox are not interested in acquiring Matt Kemp from the Dodgers in exchange for the lefty, contrary to a rumor that surfaced Sunday.
In fact, there has yet to be a lot of dialogue between the two teams, though the Dodgers, with World Series aspirations, could certainly become a player for lefty. If the Dodgers were successful in getting Lester, they would have the most impressive front three in the game, featuring Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Lester.
If the Red Sox are to trade Lester, they would need at least one top-level prospect. Would the Dodgers be willing to part with center field prospect Joc Pederson? If so, talks could heat up quickly. But there’s been no indication to this point Los Angeles would include Pederson.
Though Lester certainly warrants a top prospect or prospects in return, he amounts to a two-month rental. Lester is eligible for free agency at season’s end, and he indicated that even if he does get traded, his top desire would still be to return to Boston as a free agent.
Lester has been red-hot of late, pitching perhaps the best baseball of his career. He is scheduled to start for the Red Sox on Wednesday night at Fenway against the Blue Jays, the final game before the trade deadline.
A scenario that seemed unfathomable when the season started — the Red Sox contemplating a trade of ace Jon Lester — can no longer be ruled out. With the defending World Series champions close to fading out of contention and Lester a free agent at season’s end, Boston general manager Ben Cherington will at least listen to offers regarding the lefty, who has been red-hot over the last few weeks.
“I’m not going to comment on any particular player,” said Cherington. “We have to talk to teams. We have to listen to what teams are looking to do and figure out from those conversations what opportunities are out there. Anything we do between now and Thursday afternoon will be with a mind toward building as quickly as possible for April of 2015. And so that might mean doing very little, it might mean doing a bunch of stuff. It might be between that. I don’t know yet. But you guys know how we feel about Jon.”
Interestingly, Lester said he would harbor no hard feelings toward the Red Sox if they traded him and he would still be interested in trying to re-sign with Boston in November even if traded in July.
“We’re certainly happy that statement reflects how he feels about the relationship. We feel good about our relationship with him. Our position hasn’t changed: We’d certainly love for Jon to be here in 2015,” said Cherington.
Twice in his career, Red Sox right-hander Jake Peavy has been traded just prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Peavy is realistic enough to know that a third deal could happen before this month ends.
Peavy (1-7, 4.64 ERA) has struggled this season and so have the Red Sox, who entered Tuesday trailing by 10 games in the American League East.
“We all our professionals and understand this time of year,” said Peavy. “At the same time, our focus is here and trying to figure out a way, me personally, to get better, for Saturday night in Houston. And to help my teammates get prepared to win tonight.”
There have been rumblings that the Cardinals, who pursued Peavy last summer before he went to the Red Sox, could be a destination. One reason it might make sense for Boston to move Peavy is that it would open up a roster spot for Rubby De La Rosa, the hard-throwing righty who has been dominant at times when given the chance.
“This will be my third time my name has really been thrown out there with a legitimate chance to be traded, and I’ve been traded twice previous,” said Peavy. “I do understand what this is like. I don’t have any anxiety if it were to happen. I’m going to handle things because I know the whole process. Like I said, it’s a difficult one.”
Even though Peavy is the ultimate professional, it is unsettling for any player to wonder if their life will be uprooted in the middle of the season.
“My life is in Boston – everything I have,” said Peavy. “And to pick and move to a new city where you don’t know anybody, it’s challenging times for anybody. But that being said, and having been through it, there’s no anxiety about any of that. I really won’t comment on anything in the future until really something happens because it does nobody any good.”
On July 31, 2009, Peavy was traded from the Padres to the White Sox. And last year, his deal to Boston happened on July 30.
“I’ll handle it the way I handled it last year and the way I’ve handled it before,” said Peavy. “Just try to continually not lose focus on the task at hand. The task at hand is to come here to work, to get better. It’s to get ready to win your next time out. We all certainly understand the situation, the times we’re in. At the end of the day, it’s not our job to be wrapped up in that.
“We answer questions when asked about it. We certainly are kept abreast through our representation and good dialogue with the front office and to have an idea what’s going on with your situation. But at the end of the day, it’s not in our control. Put your head down and work. That’s what I’ve done the past few years and if something happens, you get called in and just go from there. At the end of the day, it’s hard for me to comment on any kind of heresy and any kind of rumors. It is what it is. My head is here.”
And until Peavy hears anything different, he plans on pitching for the Red Sox against the Astros on Saturday in Houston.
Peavy takes pride in pitching for the Red Sox, and that includes the good times like last year and even the struggles of this season.
“I’ve said it since I’ve got here,” said Peavy. “This place, being in this room, is home to me. There’s a lot of people here in the year that I’ve spent here in Boston that are very, very special to me and that’s on the field and off the field. When you experience what we all got a chance to go through last year, you become extremely tight.
“And when you go through times like these, you find out who your buddies are and who’s with you and who’s in your corner. I love this place and I’ve said that since Spring Training — I’ve always wanted to be here.”
Though this season has been a long way from the Cy Young season Peavy had for the Padres in 2007, he cautions people not to give up on him.
“I’ve got a lot of baseball left in me and good baseball too,” said Peavy. “So I’m just going to try to work and be a pro. That’s the only way I know how to be, to be the best teammate I can be and the be the best employee I can be and that’s doing everything I can do to get myself better to help the Red Sox win.”
There have been extremes with Xander Bogaerts during his rookie season. For a considerable part of May, Bogaerts was the hottest hitter on the Red Sox. That has not been the case of late, as he has struggled mightily.
With the addition of Mookie Betts creating somewhat of a log jam — five players competing for four positions — Bogaerts was the odd man out for Sunday’s game against the Yankees.
Brock Holt played third base, with an outfield of Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Betts.
Over his last 80 at-bats, Bogaerts has nine hits for an average of .113 with one homer ,three RBIs, a .153 OBP and a .163 slugging percentage.
“Those adjustments are in the works,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “His timing is off. We recognize that. There are some things that are tangibly different right now than when he was in a stretch where he was impacting the baseball with regularity. That is being addressed in early work, it’s being addressed in regular BP and while it’s being accomplished more readily at that speed, game speed is where some of that reverting back is taking place. It’s not about talent or commitment to work it’s the execution at game speed. We’ve got to remain patient, keep working at it and that’s what we’re doing.”
Farrell doesn’t think it’s a matter of teams changing their approach. “I wouldn’t say pitched differently. Again, we were able to identify through video and a subjective view from the dugout so these were things that were being talked about with him, shown on video and we’ll continue to work through.”
First things first. Official scorer Bob Ellis changed his call from last Wednesday’s Red Sox-Twins game at Fenway Park, crediting David Ortiz with a hit on a ball first baseman Joe Mauer bobbled on a half-dive.
Ortiz gave a thumbs down sign up to the press box during the game and was critical of Ellis following the game. But on Monday, Ortiz admitted the way he expressed his frustration was wrong.
“All I have to say is I know I owe an apology to MLB, Mr. Joe Torre, even the scorekeeping guys,” said Ortiz. “I know that I had frustration come out that way, and that’s not what you really want. You don’t want things to be like that and everything.”
Ortiz admitted that the way things have gone for him this season — he was hitting .248 entering Monday’s game — probably played a role in his actions.
“This has been a season already that has been jam-packed with frustration. At the end of the day, our job is based on results. I sit down and watch that TV every night after the game and I go 0-for-4, and all people talk and [complain] about is why I’m not hitting .300. of course, you don’t want to get caught into a situation … we are a family that of course needs to protect each other. The whole week has been about me protecting over a hit. There’s a lot of people mad at me because I argued something that I didn’t think I should get. I don’t blame them. I’m not apologizing just because I got that result. It’s because the message was spread out based on frustration. That’s why I’m apologizing.”
“Like I say man, it’s just something, I didn’t want the message to come out that way but it already happened and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
When someone mentioned to Ortiz that he wound up being right that the call should have been ruled a hit, he said, “Well, let’s keep it classy.”
For the second time in 15 days, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington expressed faith in his highly-underachieving team and forecasts an in-season turnaround that may not have to occur because of blockbuster trades.
Trades aren’t the be all-end-all at this point: “I don’t know about moves. We’re obviously not happy with where we are. Ultimately, we’re 18-25, that’s not up to our standards, that’s not where we want to be ultimately. It’s up to me to find a way to make it better. We still believe it’s gonna get better. We believe we’ve got a very good team ahead of us this year. Most of that is still going to come from within with guys here performing, getting back to a level they’re accustomed to and then if we can do that and start playing a little better and win some games and hang in there, we’ll try to find anyway we can to make improvements to the team as the summer goes on. At this point, this early in the season, we’re still just mostly focused on the guys that are here and finding a way to play better with the guys that are here.”
Pressed again about making moves, Cherington offered this: “I think there’s a need to play better and there’s the need to find ways to get better and all sorts of ways and again, that’s my responsibility. Not saying we wouldn’t consider moves. It’s just that this early in the season, typically, you’re sort of talking other teams into doing things and that doesn’t always leave you in the best position to make deals. I wouldn’t rule it out but, we’ll see. Because of that, look, we’re gonna get Victorino back, we’re going to get hopefully our core lineup out there more consistently moving forward and we believe in that core lineup and that core group of players and we believe we have a lot of wins in us with that core, without adding to it. if we can add to it, whether it’s sooner or later or towards the deadline in a way that makes sense, of course we’re going to work to do it in a way that makes sense. Again, that’s up to me. But just mostly focused still on the guys who are here.”
Injuries no excuse: “I wouldn’t assign it to injuries. We’ve had some injuries. Every team has injuries. I think our job is to be good enough and deep enough to play through the injuries and still win games and hang in there through the tougher times. So I wouldn’t assign it to injuries. It would be better not to have injuries. I don’t know. it’s a variety of things. I think we would have guessed coming into the year that in all likelihood we would face a little more adversity this year than we did last year. it’s just the way baseball goes and we have in different ways. Offensively, we just haven’t clicked in any sort of consistent way. we’ve been in most games because we’ve been running pretty good pitchers out there most often whether it’s the starters or the bullpen mostly keeping us in games. We just haven’t clicked offensively and I can’t point to one thing. for the reason, we know we have to get better. We believe we will. We’re not there yet.”
How much longer can they go with Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr.? “You know, we’ve got to play better and you’re talking about two very different players there so in jackie’s case, he’s playing really good defense, he’s grinding, he’s making offensive adjustments. He’s here working every day to get better.He’s a very important guy for us and we feel he’s the right guy to be our center fielder. In Grady’s case, we’ve seen flashes, as I said 10 days ago. I think he would tell you he hasn’t’ been as consistent as he’d like to be. Hasn’t made the impact as he’d like to. Look, we’re all in this together, we know collectively we’ve got to get better. We all have to perform better, that starts with me. And we just have to make that happen. we’re not ready to proclaim that this has to happen or that has to happen or there needs to be any particular move. We just have to play better.”
Pressed again on Sizemore: “He’s here. He’s one of our 25 guys. John’s trying to put him in positions to succeed. We believe Grady Sizemore is going to be a good Major League player again. We’re going to do whatever we can to help him be that guy here. We’ll see. We just have to play better, the whole team has to play better. I have to do my part. If we all do that, we’ll look up and things will look a lot better 10 days from now.”
On the struggling offense of the outfield: “Well it’s still evolving you know? We came into the year obviously thinking in left field we were going to have something analogous to last year, a combination with Gomes and Nava or some other left-handed hitter. In right field we certainly expected Victorino out there, we hope that he will be out there soon. And in spring training the question was on center field and ultimately Grady played his way onto the team and then we had an injury so Jackie ended up on the team and his defense was so good that he kind of takes over. Look we expected Jackie to be our center fielder of the future back this winter, we just didn’t know what date that was going to start on. I don’t think anything has really changed there. We just haven’t had that corner group out there consistently and we haven’t had the production out of the corners that we thought we would and need to have.
Cherington didn’t say if part of the agreement of Drew’s contract was that he be recalled after the minimum 10 days were used in his Minor League option: “I don’t want to get into the specifics of our discussion before signing him but we definitely felt like given where he was physically at the time of the signing that it wouldn’t take him a long time in the minor leagues to be able to help our team. There’s a different between being at maximum capacity and full speed with perfect timing and all that, there’s a difference between that and helping a major league team. And we felt like Stephen drew made us a more complete roster, a better, deeper roster, even if he was still working on some things. So we signed him with the understanding that assuming he physically checked out that he’d be on the team son, as soon as we could and that’s the way it turned out. We don’t have any regrets for that. We also knew we might have to manage his playing time a little bit early on, so it’s not unexpected that he’s getting a day here and there. All the reasons we signed him are still in place and we’ll see how it works out.”
In hindsight, did Cherington need more outfield depth going into the season? “I guess you can never have enough right? We felt we did. There was a combination of guys including Nava, Carp, Gomes, Victorino, Bradley, Sizemore, Brentz and down the line we felt we had enough good players, enough good options to be deep enough in the outfield. There has been a combination of underperformance to some of those guys and injuries to others that kind of tapped into that a little bit, so it showed up. Ultimately it’s my responsibility to figure that out and get better. We felt that we did have enough depth. To this point we haven’t gotten the production out of the outfield that we need to. We still feel like we can and it’s up to us to figure that out.
Cherington was stunned to see it written somewhere that the Red Sox signed Stephen Drew because of pressure in the media, and staunchly denied it: “False. I was really surprised to see that today. We know Stephen Drew really well. We signed Stephen Drew because I made a recommendation to ownership to sign Stephen Drew. We had been talking internally for a little while, and then on a Friday, our third baseman got hurt, and we expected, based on the initial evaluation, that Will might miss a significant amount of time. At that point, during that game, we were 20-20, and scratching and clawing for every win and certainly right in the mix in the AL East. We had known, if there was an area on the team that we wanted to add some depth to, it was the left side of the infield. It wasn’t a reflection on any of the players we had. We want as many good players as we can for each spot. It happened to be that Will got hurt, Stephen Drew was still out there, he was a free agent, and we felt like, if we didn’t sign him, we might be in position to have to make a trade at some point and give up talent to address, potentially, an area of need, so we have a guy who we trust, who we like, who’s a good player, who’s a trustworthy player, who’s been here and done that who’s available to sign without giving talent, so we did it. I made that recommendation, and I would make that recommendation again.”
Trade Jon Lester if the team falls out of contention and there is no progress with his contract situation? “We haven’t even thought about that. Jon’s focus is to go out and pitch every five days and help us win, and he’s done a very good job of that this year. We’re trying to support him in any way we can. Our position hasn’t changed. We hope to have a conversation again about his contract. We’d love to find a way to keep him here. But right now we’re just trying to win games and stay in this thing. I believe we will. When we do, we’re going to want Jon Lester pitching for us down the stretch.”
John Lackey might retire rather than pitch for the player minimum that his contract dictates next year? “No. I have not heard anything about it. That’s the first I’ve heard of it. I don’t know — I’m not sure I’m the person to respond to it. This is more of a question for John, I guess. But I know that, the way he’s pitching right now and what I know of him as a competitor and how much he likes being in the clubhouse and how important it is for him to compete and be a guy, I would certainly expect him to want to keep playing, and he certainly looks like a guy who’s going to keep pitching for quite some time. I haven’t heard anything about that, and obviously our expectation is that he’s going to be here.”
On Clay Buchholz: “Physically, he says he feels good, and we were able to identify a couple of things in the delivery that he thinks and we think can help him. It’s likely a gradual thing, right? It’s not going to be — typically players don’t go from struggling to lights out overnight, but there are some tangible things that he’s identified that will help him, and he’s been doing that. He’s been working on that. He’ll pitch in the minor leagues a little bit to start, and we’ll see where we are.”