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Mariners rumors: M's interested in Jon Lester, scratched from start

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Jon Lester is very likely getting dealt, but buying high on him from Boston won't be cheap.

Jim Rogash

There's less than 30 hours remaining before the trade deadline, and the rumors have been flying so fast and furious that it's grown exhausting. The Mariners are seemingly interested in everyone, and in lieu of a trade, today seems like a good day to discuss some of the rumors floating around, their feasibility, and whether or not said player would be a smart addition.

The first of these names is Jon Lester, who the Red Sox have scratched from his start tonight. Lester's deal expires after the season and he's having a career year, posting a 2.52 ERA and 2.62 FIP, due in part to a resurgence in strikeouts and a career low in walks. The Red Sox and Lester have been engaged in contract discussions for a long time, and haven't been able to come to a deal. Given the massive amount of starting pitching that's going to be available next year, turning down an extension seems like a risk for Lester, as one of Lester, Scherzer, and James Shields might find themselves in a scenario similar to last season and Ervin Santana, though to a different, more expensive degree. The class is far better this year, but banking on three teams to toss out major contracts for starting pitchers is risky. Lester has already said he's willing to go back to Boston even if they trade him, but leaving a city can open up eyes and make a player more willing to sign in a new market.

Enter Seattle, who has been connected to just about every Lester rumor over the past week, presumably because the cost of acquiring David Price has shot through the roof. Though Lester and his whopping 4.6 fWAR would give the Mariners the #1 and #2 pitchers in baseball by fWAR, he's not going to be cheap and the Mariners probably lack the prospects to get it done.

Summary:

Lester would make a huge impact. You're buying as high as it gets, and paying a large premium for the assumption that Lester will continue to be as good as he's been all year. There's nothing to suggest he won't be, but four months versus his three most recent good, but not great years is risky. Then, if you try to extend him, you would be paying for 2014 value and not estimated future production. Lester turns 31 in January. This is classic, peak value danger zone for contract years. If you're one of those people that thinks Lester would sign with Seattle at a discount because he's from Tacoma, it's probably wishful thinking. There's no evidence to suggest this happens with any regularity when guys have a massive opportunity to cash in, and Lester hasn't lived in the Seattle area for 12 years. This isn't his home anymore.

Cost:

This is where things get really dicey. The Mariners don't have a prospect in between the values of Nick Franklin and Taijuan Walker that make this feasible. D.J. Peterson likely isn't good enough for the kind of headliner Boston is looking for in return here. We've seen what the market dictates for these two month rentals -- the Indians received Matt LaPorta, ranked #31 by Baseball America at the time, as a headliner for C.C. Sabathia going to Milwaukee. The Mariners got Justin Smoak, #17 prospect, for the Rangers renting Cliff Lee. These acquisitions don't come cheap, especially when somebody has been as good as Lester. While Taijuan Walker is still a cut above those other two headliners, that's without a doubt who Boston is asking for in a deal. Otherwise, the Mariners are looking at giving up multiple quality guys in the upper tier of their farm system, like D.J. Peterson and Nick Franklin.

Verdict:

Pass. Lester, while fantastic, will simply cost too much and the odds of him sticking around after the deal aren't much greater than if the Mariners bid on him in normal free agency. He would make a huge impact, but gunning all in for the hopes at a single game playoff could gut the Mariners and hinder them from making other moves this deadline and in the future.