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Kevin Millar on MFB: ‘If you’re going to deal Jon Lester, you better have something in place’

07.03.14 at 1:43 pm ET
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Former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar joined Middays with MFB Thursday to discuss the Red Sox‘€™ struggles this season, Mookie Betts‘€™ performance out in the outfield and Jon Lester‘€™s contract situation. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

While the Red Sox sit 8 1/2 games out of first place in the division, Millar said that it’€™s too early to raise the white flag, as an unstable AL East could give Boston a chance to get right back into the hunt for a playoff spot.

“€œThe problem is that this American League East is crazy,”€ Millar said. “The Rays were 15 [games] out June 10, now they’€™re 9 1/2 out. You can’€™t make this up. There’€™s not a team that you can go, ‘€˜Hah, they’€™re going to dominate.’€™ … With the Yankees now, they can’€™t hit. They’€™ve lost a bunch of games. They were looking like they were putting it all together. The Jays, you can’€™t rely on them. I mean, their offense is great and I get it, but you got to pitch at this level, so I don’€™t know what to do.

“€œIf I’€™m the Red Sox, you’€™ve got to win games. You got to beat the Cubs at home, they can’€™t do that. … You can’€™t give up either, because it can change in three weeks.”

Lester’€™s contract discussions with the Red Sox has become a hot topic recently, as ESPN’€™s Buster Olney said that the negotiations are drawing a lot of attention from within the Boston clubhouse -€“ something that Millar said isn’t the case.

“€œI don’€™t think that’€™s a distraction,”€ Millar said. “We’€™re talking about multi-million dollars, exciting times. I never thought that signing a four or five or six-year extension or contract is a distraction. That’€™s between the player, the agent and the team. Now, if Jon Lester is sitting around and going around like a little social butterfly in the locker room, of course that becomes a distraction. But that’€™s not what he’€™s doing. It’€™s a business.”

One possible scenario in the Jon Lester contract talks could see the Red Sox trading away their ace pitcher for assets if the team continues to slide in the standings. Millar said that Boston should only make such a drastic move if the team has a contingency plan in place.

“€œIf you’€™re going to deal Jon Lester, you better have something in place, because we’€™ve seen it happen a little bit with the [Jacoby] Ellsbury situation. … They lose the leadoff hitter that steals bags, hits .300 and plays good defense and now we’€™ve got five center fielders and we still haven’€™t quite found that niche. If you’€™re going to let Jon Lester roll because you want change, you better have Max Scherzer lined up, you better have David Price lined up. You better have somebody to come in and fill those shoes.”

It’€™s been an adventure out on the field for Sox rookie Mookie Betts, who played in just 29 games in the outfield during stints with in Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket this season. While Millar said that he thinks Betts can master the tricky Fenway outfield in time, he added that he’€™s not sure if the 21-year-old youngster is the answer for Boston.

“The left-field situation is a tad overrated in Fenway,” Millar said. “It’€™s not that hard. You’€™ve got a fence that’€™s 300 feet away, so you play 190 feet away -€“ basically 50 feet behind the shortstop – and anything over your head, you play off the wall. … At the end of the day, the Green Monster is not a tough position. The tough spot is right field.

“€œIt goes from 270 [feet[ to 380 [feet], you have that whole corner. … But the Red Sox need to basically look in the mirror and say, ‘€˜Where are we at?’€™ … Mookie, he can learn the positions all he wants, but is he the answer to take them to the promised land, and I don’€™t think that’€™s the answer.”

For more Red Sox news, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Jon Lester, Kevin Millar, mookie betts, Red Sox
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