We always say it about the guys the Chicago Cubs trade at the deadline: as much as you might want them to come back as free agents, it essentially never happens. The reasons are many, but they all add up to a near universal truth. Competitive windows, money questions, fit questions, post-trade hostility, zero sum game of free agency, and much more. The reunion just doesn’t seem to happen, no matter what the two sides say after the trade and/or heading into free agency.
… but there were some folks who thought that Jon Lester and the Boston Red Sox would be an exception. There were indications that Boston ownership even mentioned to Lester how much they wanted him back as the trade to Oakland was going down. They certainly have the money and the need, and Lester was obviously comfortable with the Red Sox. So, maybe?
Well, with Lester’s season over and free agency just a few weeks away, at least one Boston writer has already accepted that Lester won’t be coming back. Chad Finn writes at Boston.com that Lester is already gone from the Red Sox, both in practice and in spirit, especially now that Lester has “found out first-hand that the uniform he wears and the city he represents has absolutely no bearing on his comfort or effectiveness as a pitcher. He loved Boston. But he can thrive anywhere.”
Indeed, Finn says that the Red Sox have known all along that Lester wouldn’t be coming back, whether by their choice or his or both. This squares with a Jon Heyman report earlier this year that indicated the odds Boston was able to re-grab Lester were quite long, despite all of the wistful talk to the contrary.
There will be stiff competition for Lester regardless of the Red Sox’s involvement, but, if they’re truly out, that does take at least one big market, big money team that needs pitching out of the mix. And it’s one with whom we know Lester had an obvious connection. Tentatively, it seems the Red Sox are more likely to go after James Shields, Kenta Maeda, and/or Cole Hamels at this point. (I haven’t seen too much connecting them to Max Scherzer just yet. It’s starting to feel like Scherzer’s odds are something like 90% Yankees, 10% Tigers.)