How absolutely incredible to think that 274 days ago we celebrated a World Series Championship and now we’re on the verge of trading away the club’s best pitcher.
Jon Lester made his MLB debut and 15 starts with the Red Sox on June 10, 2006 before his season was cut short due to a diagnosis of anaplastic large cell lymphoma only two months later. He fought cancer and rejoined the club late in 2007 and from there wracked up some amazing feats.
It’s almost impossible to know where to begin. I could go on for days. Here are some highlights:
- 110 wins are the 9th most by any Red Sox pitcher in history. He’s just 14 wins from surpassing Mel Parnell for most Red Sox wins by a lefty.
- Lester’s .636 win percentage is the 4th best in Red Sox history among pitchers with 140+ career decisions.
- 1,386 strikeouts are the 4th-most in Red Sox history, the most by a Boston lefty and 343 more than No. 2 Bruce Hurst.
- Among active AL lefties only CC Sabathia (2,309) and Mark Buehrle (1,615) have more career strikeouts than Lester.
- Tallied 150+ strikeouts in each of the last 6 seasons from 2008-13, one of just eleven pitchers in baseball to do so.
- Only pitcher with 15+ wins in the American League in all 4 seasons from 2008-11.
And that just scratches the surface for regular season achievements. In the postseason Lester was nothing short of superb:
- 6-4 with a 2.11 ERA in 13 career playoff games.
- Owns a 1.97 ERA in his 11 starts, the lowest career mark ever by a Red Sox starter with 40.0+ postseason innings.
- Back from his cancer treatment Lester went on to win the decisive Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, allowing no runs over 5.2 innings of work.
- 4-1 with an outstanding 1.56 ERA in 5 postseason starts through the 2013 ALDS, ALCS, and World Series
- Lester’s 5 postseason Game 1 starts are the most ever for a Red Sox pitcher.
This season, with so little to cheer, Lester has been terrific nonetheless, thrilling us with a new career high for strikeouts in a game (15) and leading the starting pitching staff for starts (21, also Lackey), innings pitched (143.0), ERA (2.52), strikeouts (149), and home runs allowed (9, minimum 60.0 IP).
What happens now
As fans, we’re emotionally attached, often unreasonably so.
This week we’ve been reminded repeatedly that baseball is a business. Trading Lester will bring a hefty return that the team can use for development or in deals going forward. What’s more, in a season that looks lost at this point, if the club truly has no intention to digging deep for a long-term deal, there’s little or no value in holding on to him until the bitter end.
If, on the other hand, the club is willing to sign him to the deal he’ll reasonably expect, trading Lester now does not preclude the possibility of signing him in the offseason. Lester has said so himself. “Like I’ve said plenty of times, this is where I want to be. And if they trade me I completely understand…And hopefully in November we get something done. Or October, whenever it is.”
Changes like this can be painful. While it’s difficult to imagine Lester not taking the mound for his 5th straight Opening Day in 2015, change is a fundamental part of every successful organization.
After the unexpected success of 2013 the reality of 2014’s performance is about to really set in.