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Buster Olney on MFB: Other teams say ‘it’s basically a certainty that [Jon] Lester’s going to move’

07.30.14 at 1:28 pm ET
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ESPN baseball reporter Buster Olney joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday to discuss Jon Lester‘€™s potential departure and other trade rumors. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Lester’€™s tenure as a member of the Red Sox appears to be entering its final stages, as the southpaw was scratched from his scheduled start Wednesday against the Blue Jays. Olney agreed that it seems like a forgone conclusion that Lester’€™s days in Boston are numbered.

“In talking with other teams that are talking with the Red Sox, they say they think it’€™s basically a certainty that Lester’€™s going to move and their perception is the Red Sox understand they they’re not going to be able to re-sign him, so you put him out in the marketplace, you get return for him,” Olney said. “€œClearly, the National League Central is right at the forefront of what the Red Sox are dealing and that vortex works well for them.

“If you’€™re the St. Louis Cardinals and you’€™re talking with the Red Sox and you’€™re trying to get Jon Lester but you’€™re also trying to keep him away from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The same thing with the Pirates, they’€™re talking about Lester, they’€™re trying to push the price up for the Cardinals, and I do think that the Cardinals are probably the frontrunner right now.”

The Cardinals stand as a strong trade partner for the Red Sox, as St. Louis boasts one of the strongest farm systems in baseball, including stud outfielder prospect Oscar Taveras.

“€œI can tell you this, that [Taveras] is widely viewed with scouts who go in there and watch him play as being a sort of non-Cardinal-type player because of a body language,” Olney said, adding: “Oscar Taveras is someone who can be in, in the eyes of scouts, pouty. He can wear his at-bats in the field if he’€™s going through a tough time.

“€œHe also has unbelievable power, so the question is, do the Cardinals look at the situation like a Lester, like a David Price and say: ‘€˜Look, down the road, maybe this guy isn’t a great fit for us, so we’€™ll take advantage of it.’€™ My guess is because he’€™s such an elite power hitter that that’€™s going to be a guy that the Cardinals would want to hang on to him in terms of his value. … They have such a great range of prospects, so do the Pirates, that the Red Sox would be able to look at a long menu of guys.”€

The Pirates, one game behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central standings and just a half- game ahead of St. Louis in the NL wild card race, also are in a prime position to make a run at Lester. Pittsburgh has a multitude of top-tier prospects, including outfielder Josh Bell.

“€œNeal Huntington, their general manager, is viewed by his peers with other teams as being very careful, very protective of his prospects,and talking with people today, they wonder if part of what’€™s going on here is the Pirates are at least trying to push the Cardinals,”€ Olney said. “€œI do think that there’€™s a potential matchup with the Pirates because it’€™s less value in John Lackey. It might be that if the Pirates don’€™t get Jon Lester, they can make a run at John Lackey and boy, does he fit what they could use because of that contract next year.”

While Olney said that it’€™s becoming more and more likely that the Red Sox will part ways with a number of their players in the coming days, he added that Boston’€™s ownership must have a contingency plan in place in order to appease what will be an irate fan base.

“I wrote this in the column today,” Olney said. “For Red Sox ownership, ‘€˜Boy, you better have a Plan B,’€™ because I’€™m really going to be fascinated to see the reaction to this after Lester gets traded and if Lackey gets traded. What’€™s the response going into 2015 from the fan base, and really, more importantly, from the other players. … They better have a Plan B.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Red Sox news, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On the potential scenario of the Red Sox also trading Lackey: “€œIf you know that you’€™re going to move Jon Lester and you’€™re probably not going to be able to re-sign him the wintertime, you might as well take advantage of the value of John Lackey and let someone else deal with his quandary of this $500,000 option for next year.”

On the trade value of reliever Andrew Miller: “I think they actually have a chance to get something decent back in return. … Andrew Miller, I think because of his history, because of how well he throws the ball when he’€™s at his best, is going to be someone who’€™s going to be looked at, for example, by the Dodgers and by any number of teams. … He’€™s definitely someone where you could get a good piece. I don’€™t know if you necessarily would have to tie him to Jonny Gomes [in a trade], I think probably the best way to get value out of Miller would be to just deal him by himself.”

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