According to a report, the Milwaukee Brewers are among several teams to ask about the availability of Boston Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester and are considered one of the strong contenders to land the Red Sox ace if he is moved before Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported Tuesday that Milwaukee had inquired about Lester and, of course, pointed to the past precedent of the half-season rental the Brewers did on CC Sabathia in 2008, when they shipped then-top prospect Matt LaPorta and pitchers Rob Bryson and Zach Jackson to the Cleveland Indians in July 2008 to get Sabathia, the reigning American League Cy Young winner at the time who was in the last year of his contract.
The Brewers later sent outfielder Michael Brantley to Cleveland to complete the deal and he is the player that emerged as the most successful one in that deal.
The price of doing business on Lester begins with the Brewers’ current top prospect, big right-hander Jimmy Nelson, who is 1-2 with a 4.30 ERA and 1.304 WHIP in four starts this season after demolishing Pacific Coast League hitters earlier this season.
Nelson was recalled from Triple-A Nashville before the All-Star break to replace home-run prone Marco Estrada in the starting rotation.
Heyman later listed Milwaukee second behind the Los Angeles Dodgers as likely landing spots for Lester.
Milwaukee is an aggressive team that’s willing to go for it and has in the past. Brewers GM Doug Melvin traded top prospects for CC Sabathia in a deadline deal and Zach Greinke in a winter deal. The Brewers have big young right-hander Jimmy Nelson and more prospects at their disposal than usual.
Now, as far as Heyman’s claim the Brewers have more prospects than usual, the Brewers had just one prospect—Nelson—listed in the updated MLB.com top 100 prospects list that was released over the weekend.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark took much the same approach when listing candidates to acquire Lester.
It’s now six years since Brewers GM Doug Melvin rolled these same dice on CC Sabathia, as a half-season hired gun. So is it possible this could line up as a deja vu set of circumstances? A season in which a lot has gone right … a lineup full of players in their prime … a high-intensity race to win the division and avoid the wild card game … and a GM and owner (Mark Attanasio) who believe in doing what you have to do to win when the opportunity is there. Hmmm. “Everything about their season says, ‘Go for it,’ said one NL exec. But the Brewers might lack the high-end prospect it would take to pull this off. And can they even afford to deal their most advanced young pitcher, Jimmy Nelson, for two months’ worth of Lester? Fascinating team to watch.
Lester was an All-Star for the third time this season and has won a couple of World Series rings in Boston, including getting the win in the World Series clincher against the Colorado Rockies in 2007 as he battled back from treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
This season, the 30-year-old Lester is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA and 1.119 WHIP—both on pace for career bests—in 21 starts and 143 innings, with 149 strikeouts. Perhaps most impressively, as a lefty pitching half of his games in Fenway Park, he has allowed only nine home runs this season.
There were earlier reports linking the Brewers to the pitcher thought to be the big prize of the trading deadline, Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price. But with the Rays back in the race after winning 10 of 11 and 19 of 24, Tampa Bay appears to be less willing to move Price at the July deadline, considering he still has one more season under organizational control.
Other teams linked to the potential Lester sweepstakes by Heyman were the Dodgers (centered around minor league outfielder Joc Pederson and pitchers Julio Urias, Chris Anderson, Zach Lee and Tom Windle), the Pittsburgh Pirates (pitchers Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow and outfielders Josh Bell and Austin Meadows) and the Baltimore Orioles (pitchers Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Eduardo Rodriguez and Hunter Harvey).
Stark also had the St. Louis Cardinals, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves potentially in the hunt for Lester.