... as if that's a good thing.
NY writer Sherman says "Officials from other clubs praise the smarts of the Red Sox front office and say there is a way to grind — give and take, give and take...."
Think so? Doesn't seem smart in this case. Not at all.
Here's his story -- interesting comparison between Lester and Cano. One big difference: Cano didn't offer any hometown discount.
The Red Sox are on the brink of making the same mistake with Jon Lester that the Yankees made last season with Robinson Cano — namely, that if you are not going to sign your star, then he must be traded before the July 31 deadline.
This is not exactly apples-to-apples, because those close to Cano made it clear the Yankees would not be getting a hometown discount while Lester has all but begged for the Red Sox to make a suitable offer that would allow him to stay.
However, in just about every other significant way, there is a mirror quality to these cases.
Cano for the Yanks in 2013 and Lester for the Red Sox in 2014 were homegrown stars who thrived in their walk seasons. The clubs, in both instances, made initial offers they had to know would not be close to keeping the players. The Yanks’ was similar to the eight-year, $138 million David Wright received from the Mets, and the Red Sox’s was for four years at $70 million to Lester.
In both instances, the organizations were worried about the impact of aging. Cano and Lester were both 30 in their walk years, and the teams felt if they met the request for length and dollars that the risk of physical and performance breakdown during the life of the deal was great and that the players could become financial weights.
Also, the 2013 Yankees and the 2014 Red Sox were teams that by this point pretty much knew their chances to make the playoffs were sketchy at best, and their likelihood of surviving multiple playoff rounds for a title were tiny.
But it has not been in the DNA of either organization to surrender. The clubs feel they have to go for it for many reasons, and never send signals to their fans who buy tickets and watch the games on the team-owned networks that they are in retreat. Particularly when it comes to not trading homegrown stars in their primes.
There was discussion internally with the Yanks about whether to trade Cano, but it was quashed by the habit to never give up. The Rangers were believed ready to make a substantial offer for Cano that would have upgraded the Yanks’ sagging farm system, and other teams certainly would have been tempted by a player as productive as Cano.
And the key thing was, the Yanks had done enough talking with the Cano camp to know he was unflinching on a 10-year request and a $200 million-plus payday, and that unless his market fell apart, he was going to leave. So the Yanks only got draft-pick compensation for Cano, which they lost when they signed their own free agents who were tendered qualifying offers.
The Red Sox also have to know Lester is going to require a lot more than $70 million, especially in light of Homer Bailey signing before the season for six years at $105 million. The six-year, $144 million pact of Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels would seem a good guidepost, and that would more than double Boston’s original offer.
Now, there are plenty of folks in the game who believe the Red Sox ultimately will blink and find a way to re-sign Lester. Boston’s top executives, after all, have been public that the $70 million merely was an opening salvo and that they were willing to move. Officials from other clubs praise the smarts of the Red Sox front office and say there is a way to grind — give and take, give and take — to a deal with Lester that with makeable options, etc., provides him most of what he wants while having some club protection in case the lefty breaks down.
However, at this time last year, the common wisdom in the game was this: Are the Yanks really going to let Cano go? The expectation was the Yanks would relent. Instead, they held fast and redirected their money to others.
That is what makes Boston’s decision fascinating. They are blessed with very good starting pitching prospects at or near the majors. But to contend they probably need an established ace, someone just like Lester. And if not him, then who? And for how much?
The Red Sox began the weekend a last-place club playing an abundance of rookies. That usually defines a selling club at this time of year. But despite being eight games under .500 and 9 1/2 games out in the AL East, Boston was tempted by the lack of a breakout team in the division and the proximity of the wild card.
Nevertheless, in recent weeks it has been the Rays who have most stirred from the bottom of the division. That makes it more possible that Tampa Bay will not trade lefty ace David Price, as has been expected. Thus, there is an avenue for the Red Sox to jump into that void with their lefty ace. Price is younger and under team control for next season, too, but Lester is a playoff-proven horse who, at 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA, is having a season at least comparable to the more strikeout-centric Price (11-7, 3.08)
Thus, Boston has a piece who certainly can deepen an already well-regarded farm system — particularly if the Red Sox believe they cannot sign him in the offseason. The Yanks ignored that chance with Cano, and regret it now.