Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lots on Losing Lester

I have to admit, I’m a little surprised.

Not so much that Lester went to the Cubs. It was all sort of up in the air there for a while. But, that the Sox didn’t spend the extra money.

I know. They’ve said all along that they have this thing with signing older pitchers to long deals. I get that. But, I also remember that John Henry hated the Josh Beckett trade. His theory was, when they traded for Beckett, they had to give up prospects, and then sign him to a long-term deal. He would have rather kept the prospects and just spent money on AJ Burnett. (I know the Sox won the World Series thanks to the trade, but you have to wonder what kind of trade-off Beckett/Lowell was vs Burnett/Hanley.) This was the same situation. So, I was a little surprised they didn’t just throw a ton of money at Lester rather than have to give Philly (say) prospects in order to pay Hamels almost as much. Now, if that’s what they end up doing, I’d probably agree with the move. I’m just surprised that they made it.

I’m also surprised that so many people are upset about the Spring Training Offer. Buster Olney even got in on the action by pointing out that the Sox offer was well below the $100+ million deals signed by pitchers Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, and Homer Bailey. Oddly, Olney makes the Red Sox’s argument better than they ever could. The other three pitchers he mentioned? All signed six year deals when they were 28. The Red Sox were offering Lester a four year deal when he was 30. The Cain contract? Well I don’t remember him being a hero in the World Series this season. Or, you know, in the rotation at all. Maybe that’s because the last two seasons he’s been a combined 10-17 , 4.09 ERA, 84 ERA+. Hamels? Better. A combined 17-25, 3.00, 125 or so. Bailey? The pitcher Olney refers to as a much less accomplished pitcher? He was coming off an 11-12, 3.49, 108 season when he signed his deal for a 17.5 AAV to carry him until he’s 34. So, the Sox offered Lester coming off a 15-8 3.75 110 season a contract with…wait for it…an AAV of 17.5 to carry him until he’s 34. It’s not their fault that Lester was older as he entered free agency. (Well, it is, but you get the idea.) I would certainly argue that Cain and Hamels were better pitchers than Lester when they signed their deals, not to mention younger, while he was the same pitcher as Bailey. It looks like the 4/70 was perfectly in line, especially considering he said he would be willing to take a discount. Lester turned it down. It could have bit him. After all, his 2012 ERA+ was a career low 87. If he did that again, he’d be begging the Sox for their 4/70. But, he didn’t. He went out, and his 155 ERA+ was a career high. As such, he got higher offers…including a higher offer from the Sox to reflect his new stature. The Sox didn’t blow it. They offered a fair deal, and got burned when Lester had a career walk year. Good for him.

I’m especially surprised that a self-proclaimed “grown-ass man” would voluntarily go to a team where he’d have to dress up like a nerd, or a Frozen character, or whatever other ridiculously demeaning outfit Maddon chooses that month.

Now the Sox just need a next move. I’ve always said that the problem with not overpaying for players is that you don’t get the players. Everyone will agree that the Yankees gave Jacoby Ellsbury a terrible contract last offseason. They’ll regret it tenfold in a few years. The Sox were right to not overpay for him. But…he sure would have been handy last year. He might even be useful next year. So, it’s great that the Sox didn’t overpay for him. But, they needed to replace him. They face the same thing with Lester. No, he’s not worth the contract the Cubs gave him. In six years, they’ll be paying the equivalent of Jake Peavy $25 million. But, next year they have their ace. The Sox don’t.

Your move, Ben.

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