Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 7/30/14

  • July 30, 2014

It might not happen today, but it’s now a virtual certainty that Jon Lester’s next start will be his first for any big league team not named the Red Sox. Lester is now the big fish on the block. That’s not to diminish fellow southpaws David Price and Cole Hamels in any way, as all these guys are top shelf pitchers. But there’s serious doubt as to whether the contending Rays will part with Price right now. As for Hamels, if the reports on the asking price from the Dodgers are accurate (Pederson, Urias and Seager), then Ruben Amaro is off his rocker. That might indicate Hamels stays put even though the Phillies are in desperate need of an overhaul.

So let’s focus on Lester and where he might land. From what I can gather there are eight teams that have a genuine interest in obtaining the star lefty. They are, in no particular order: Blue Jays, Orioles, Dodgers, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, Marlins and Mariners.

I’ll look at each team and try and come up with my best guess as to the winner of the Lester sweepstakes.  The Blue Jays and Orioles would only be considerations if Boston feels confident that neither of those teams would be able to sign him long term. There’s little doubt in my mind that there’s no way the Red Sox deal him within the division otherwise. I’m not seeing the Brewers as a destination, mostly because I don’t see them dealing Jimmy Nelson and I’m not sure there’s anyone else in their system the Red Sox would take as an alternative. The Marlins are supposedly interested, but I’m skeptical they’d actually make a daring trade to add salary, even short term, because they’re the Marlins. So I’ll toss these four teams out as the long shots.

The Pirates are interesting, as they have a wealth of minor league talent and can therefore afford to gamble. I’m not sure Boston would accept a player still 2-3 years away, so the Bucs might have to part with someone like Alen Hanson. I don’t think the Cardinals would give up Oscar Taveras, but they might be willing to deal someone like Stephen Piscotty, who profiles as, if not a star, a solid everyday OF. Seattle might offer Brad Miller, who in spite of losing his starting SS role, remains a good prospect, and could be packaged with another player. I would think DJ Peterson might also be the type of player the Red Sox would accept if it’s one for one.

Then there’s the Dodgers, who I feel have to at least be the favorite. They’ve got prospects and money. That means they can afford to lose a potential future star and they can also feel confident that Lester would not simply be a rental, but someone they can sign long term. The most likely minor leaguer on the move would, at least in my view, be Joc Pederson. I don’t see LA trading Julio Urias under any conditions. I also think Corey Seager is close to untouchable. Pederson is a top 20 prospect but I don’t think his ceiling is as high as either Urias or Seager. However, he’s definitely good enough to tempt the Red Sox. Moreover, if Boston thinks they can score Pederson and also have a good chance to get Lester back in free agency, this deal would be a virtual no-brainer for them.

This is all conjecture, of course. I don’t have any inside knowledge of the names that are being brought up by any of the teams. But Lester is clearly going someplace, and I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

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Tuesday was as sweet as it gets, with a 5-0 sweep and a net gain of roughly +4.3 units. The reason it’s not 5 plus net is that I split one unit on the Padres and Under, so gained just a half unit on each of those plays. Following the unpleasant May, the last two months have been outstanding, and I’m pretty pleased at the moment. Nevertheless, I missed the boat on the White Sox yesterday, which simply should have been played at the price, which was too high. But I’ll avoid complaining and save the beefs for the nights when I have to pull money out of the cash register rather than enjoying making the deposit.

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The Marlins free play worked out nicely as the bad luck for Stephen Strasburg continued. I thought this was toast early, as Henderson Alvarez was lacking command at the outset. But the Nats blew a bases loaded, none out second inning and from that point on, I had to feel good about my chances. Nice dog payoff there, and an even larger pup is the comp tonight.

07/30 05:10 PM  MLB  (977) MINNESOTA TWINS  at  (978) KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Take: (977) MINNESOTA TWINS +140

At the outset, let’s be clear that there’s risk here as Phil Hughes has tailed off considerably of late for the Twins. But even though his overall performances have declined, it’s important to note that he’s still not getting burned by the gopher ball, which was a true waterloo for Hughes when he was wearing pinstripes. He’s also still maintaining good control, so he isn’t beating himself with walks. In fact, while the eye test says Hughes hasn’t been sharp lately, there’s also been some lousy BABIP luck as a contributing factor.

Of course, even  if I give more weight to the analytics and deem this as ill fortune, I still prefer to wait for the turnaround to occur before jumping in. But there’s a second side involved here called the Royals, and that’s where this play becomes more enticing to me.

No knocks on Danny Duffy, who has been outstanding for KC but just can’t catch a good break. Welcome to life on the Royals, who have given Duffy precious little run support all season. I don’t think there’s much question that the team knowing they haven’t produced for Duffy makes then press every time he takes the mound, thus the continuing issue with offense gets maintained and perhaps even intensifies. Duffy is the best 5-10 pitcher in the majors. But he’s still 5-10.

Aside from the starting pitchers, this is pretty close. The Twins have actually hit lefties well on the road, something they certainly haven’t done at Target. The Minnesota bullpen is acceptable, but is clearly second best here as the Royals have three pretty much shut down guys for the late innings.

Make no mistake, Kansas City deserves the favorite’s role here. But I can’t justify them liviing in that high rent -150 neighborhood. I made this number Royals -125, so it appears to me as though there’s considerable value on the underdog side. I’ll select the Twins here, and remember to check my Twitter feed during the day to see if this makes my final card.