The Red Sox scratched Lester from his scheduled start Wednesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays as interest swirls around the 30-year-old left-hander who has a 110-63 record with a 3.64 earned run average over nine seasons in Boston.
Nine months after winning the World Series, the Red Sox are in last place in the American League Eastern Division and in position to be sellers at baseball's trade deadline. The Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers, Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and Seattle Mariners are among those teams contending for a playoff spot who might be interested in parting with prospects for Lester, who is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA and will become a free agent after this season.
"Any team that gets him, they're getting a postseason warrior," said MLB Network analyst John Hart, a former general manager of the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers. "Boston's decision is going to be, 'If we trade Lester now, can we re-sign him again in the winter and can we pick up one or two top-flight prospects in return?'"
By calling up Brandon Workman from the minor leagues to make tonight's start, the Red Sox have made Lester available to pitch for his new team immediately after any possible trade. Lester has a 6-4 record in the postseason and is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in his three career World Series starts.
"In light of all the uncertainty surrounding Jon Lester, it's probably in everyone's best interests that he does not make that start," Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters after last night's loss that dropped his team to 48-59.
Other veteran pitchers who might be available ahead of the July 31 trade deadline include Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies, Bartolo Colon of the New York Mets, John Lackey of the Red Sox, Justin Masterson of the Cleveland Indians and John Danks of the Chicago White Sox.
David Price's $14 million contract with Tampa Bay is up after this season and he was considered a potential trade chip after the Rays' 28-45 start. They have a 25-9 record since, however, pulling within 4 1/2 games of a wild-card playoff spot in the American League. He is pitching Wednesday.
Non-pitchers who could be traded include Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd, Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn, and Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Byrd, 36, was traded to the Pirates from the Mets last August and helped Pittsburgh make the playoffs for the first time since 1992. He's played for seven teams over his 13-year career and is hitting .273 with 20 homers and 60 runs batted in for the Phillies this season.
"He's one of those guys who can fit in wherever he goes," MLB Network analyst Sean Casey said. "Byrd is an impact bat who can help out somebody right now."
The trade deadline is at 4 p.m. New York time Thursday. After that, players can still switch teams until Aug. 31, though they would have to first clear waivers.
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