Touching All the Bases

While Awaiting Jon Lester's Decision, Red Sox Have Many Options to Consider


Well, Jon Lester ...

... we're waiting.

Yeah, I've probably used Judge Smails in this context before. Caddyshack is 34 years old. I'll let you know when its best lines get old. I'm not expecting it anytime soon, though the gopher subplot looks stupider by the year.

I apologize for getting sidetracked right out of the gate here. It seems that as we wait for Lester, the former Red Sox ace lefthander whom the vast majority of fans hope chooses this franchise's nine-figure contract offer to become its present and future ace lefthander, pondering old movie quotes is a decent time-killing distraction while we await his decision.

Perhaps his decision will indeed be revealed soon. Rumblings from the commencing Winter Meetings in San Diego indicate as much:

Let's hope so. Lester has every right to take all the time he wants with his decision, and he does have multiple appealing options, from Boston to San Francisco to Chicago and Los Angeles.

I figure one of two things are at play here: He's biding his time a little longer to see if one of his suitors goes to seven years. Or he's already decided to come back to Boston and just wants to make sure it's for the maximum contract they will to give him.

I hope it's the latter. And after reading this ...

... I think it's the latter.

But whether by design or circumstance, he's become the first domino in the free-agent pitching market. When he signs, the bar will be set for Max Scherzer, perhaps the only starter available who has more overall appeal than Lester.

And it will also be set for the pitchers who are at a level or two below Lester in terms of quality: James Shields may end up a consolation prize for a team that missed out on Lester. And the market for the likes of Brandon McCarthy, Ervin Santana, and Francisco Liriano, among others, should also take shape.

So for now -- another day or two, maybe even just a few more hours -- the Red Sox remain in something of a holding pattern while waiting for Lester's decision.

I say something of a holding pattern because while Lester's status may appear to have paralyzed them in terms of making other pitching moves, the reality is that the groundwork has certainly been laid for other significant deals to come.

If they don't sign Lester, they're going have to acquire a couple of top-notch starting pitchers. And if he does return to Boston? They still need to make a deal or two for more proven, quality pitching. I mean, they were 48-60 with Lester on their roster last season. He's not the solution. He's -- hopefully -- a part of it.

It's funny, it feels like the Red Sox have been in a transaction purgatory while Lester listens to pitches from other franchises ... which is a fairly ridiculous thing to say considering they've already spent approximately $200 million this offseason on Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

If nothing else, those two moves gave us an excuse to scribble out potential 2015 lineups when we're not staring out the window Biden-style and waiting for spring. But the key word is potential. There's so much that remains unsettled, and the answers will only begin to be revealed after Lester determines his destination.

The Red Sox have a surplus of talented outfielders at various career stages, and a shortage of quality starting pitching, and for roster construction reasons alone they must make a trade or two of note and impact.

This is obvious, of course, but the suspense of what they will do remains. So we sort through the rumors, search for clues, and try to figure out what makes the most sense.

Sign me up for Yoenis Cespedes for Rick Porcello. But Cespedes for Ian Kennedy? No thank you, San Diego. I hope Ben Cherington is relentless in pursuit of Cole Hamels, and uncompromising in meeting Ruben Amaro Jr.'s demands.

I suspect they'll try to sign Bill James fan Brandon McCarthy as a third or fourth starter, and it would not shock me at all if they go hard after Scherzer should Lester decline the homecoming.

Whether Lester returns or departs, this much is certain: Red Sox' dealing will be nowhere near done. Actually, it will have only just begun.

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