Jon Lester

The State of the Trade Deadline: Yesterday was pretty sleepy. Will general managers wake up today?

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Justin Masterson was traded yesterday. And beyond that it was nothin’ but rumors. Jon Lester and John Lackey are still Red Sox. The Phillies have unloaded no one despite needing to unload just about everyone. Teams like the Brewers and Mariners, who are in tough races and have a need, have been silent. Teams like the Dodgers, who could probably disrupt everyone’s plans if they wanted to, are still quiet too.

That’s somewhat baffling, but here’s where we stand, less than eight hours until the trade deadline:

Jon Lester: There were rumors yesterday afternoon that the Orioles were closing in on a deal for Lester, but nothing happened. The Dodgers are apparently out. The Cardinals were allegedly in before picking up Masterson, but who knows if they still are now. My personal favorite here — the Pirates — has the sort of minor league talent the Sox likely want in return. But you have to figure Pittsburgh is not serious about a long-term extension for Lester, thereby making them balk at unloading the prospect truck. This one could go to the wire.

David Price: He had a bad game yesterday, losing to the Brewers, but I think he can be forgiven for that. The Rays conundrum here is that they’ve been winning lately and it’s really hard to sell off your best player when the fans think you’re contending. But do the Rays themselves think they’re contending? For as hot as they’ve been, there are still many clubs ahead of them in the standings, both in the AL East and the wild card. Mathematically, they still have a less-than-10 percent chance of making the playoffs. Can they forego a big prospect haul for that less-than-10 percent chance? I don’t think I could. If they don’t trade him today, they can’t expect to get nearly as good a deal in August. He won’t clear waivers, in all likelihood, thereby limiting the number of teams to whom the Rays can shop him. It’s gut-check time for the Rays’ front office.

[MORE: 30 seconds to know about the Trade Deadline]

Marlon Byrd: There aren’t a lot of decent bats on the market, making Byrd look like the best one by default. At least the most powerful one, as has 20 homers and a .477 slugging percentage at the break. The Mariners were long thought to be a favorite for Byrd, but they dropped out of the bidding yesterday afternoon. That could just be the Mariners being weird. Or it could be the Phillies being in denial. They have to unload players and Byrd is likely the most marketable one they have. Is Ruben Amaro holding out for too much? Will other teams with offensive needs — say, the Yankees or Royals — sweep in and get a late bargain today?

[MORE: Mariners out on Byrd]

John Lackey: It was reported yesterday that there was a “very good chance” Lackey would be traded by today’s deadline. The Marlins were said to be talking to Boston about him yesterday, but that doesn’t’ seem to be serious. Given that Lackey has a $500,000 team option for next season and given that he’s still a more-than-solid starter, just about every team should be interested in his services. To be honest, though, I have no idea why the Red Sox would want to deal him, so you have to figure they’ll be asking a lot for their bargain basement starter.

[MORE: Lackey to Marlins? Probably not]

Alex Rios: The other prominent bat on the market. He was hit by a pitch and left yesterday’s game, so that may scare people, but it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Rios’ speed and better defensive value may make him a better option than Byrd. He’s also someone who can walk after this season, under contract for what’s left of his $12.5 million this year and a club option for $13.5 million in 2015. The Mariners may have shifted focus to him.

Joaquin Benoit: Relievers are always a hot commodity at the deadline, and Benoit should be the hottest. For one thing, he’s been great this year. For another he has shown that he can and will close or set up, depending on your needs. Finally, the Padres have a “yard sale” sign set up outside of Petco Park so you have to figure they’re talking to people. They were rumored yesterday to be talking to the Dodgers, but it’s unclear how serious that is. Really, everyone needs bullpen help down the stretch, so anyone could snag him.

The Phillies: Byrd, Bastardo, A.J. Burnett, Papelbon, Lee and even Howard and Hamels have been in rumors. Still the Phillies have made no moves. This despite needing to turn the page on this era and think about the future. If nothing happens in Philly, things could get ugly.

As always, keep it on HBT all day, as we will be updating constantly, keeping you up on everything that happens between now and the 4PM Eastern deadline.

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

John Mozeliak AP
Associated Press
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The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.

St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.

The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.

Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?

Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.

 

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.