Boston Red Sox

Their teams and roles have changed, but the Jon Lester-David Ross dynamic remains the same

Their teams and roles have changed, but the Jon Lester-David Ross dynamic remains the same

MESA, Ariz. – When asked about a friendship that’s now spanned multiple teams and job titles, both David Ross and Jon Lester gave, more or less, the same answer – but each in his own, unique way. Is it going to be weird having one of your good buddies taking you out of games? Could that present some awkward communication issues?

“I would say I’m almost too honest with him,” Ross said with a big grin. “If that can be a thing. He’s in a good place and I’m proud of him. I’m happy with where he's at. I still think he’s a special, top of the rotation pitcher.”

“I don't know if you guys know this, but he took me out of games plenty of times,” Lester added, without any grin whatsoever. “This won't be anything new. Is that weird? Yes. But he's my boss. When he decides the game is over for me, the game is over.” 

Ross’ close relationship with the team’s core is well-trodden territory, but it’s not a stretch to say that there’s an elevated dynamic between the Cubs’ new manager and the Cubs’ oldest player. The two played together, and won rings together, in both Boston and Chicago; perhaps no one within the game of baseball knows Lester better – both as a pitcher and as a leader. 

“What he’s done in the postseason, and seen in the markets he’s been in, his words and actions carry so much weight in the locker room,” Ross said. “I was there not long ago when it did, and it’s even more so now with the young guys we’ve got. He just sets a great example for those guys. The way he works, the consistency, he’s truly at work when he walks in the door.” 

This will be Lester’s 15th year in the big leagues – the exact amount of time that Ross spent playing. As always, his goal for the season is to hit 200 innings. If he can, it’d be the first time since 2016 that he'll cross that threshold. It would also vest the 2021 option in Lester’s contract, guaranteeing him $25 million next season. 

A lingering hamstring injury rendered Lester ineffective for much of last season, and after tweaking a few things in his offseason workout, he feels like he finally has requisite strength back in his lower body. 

“I’m such a legs-oriented pitcher, so I think any time you miss an extended amount of time with a leg injury, I think it just took me a while – even though I felt fine – to get my base back,” he said. “Going into the offseason, I really tried to focus on that: my hips, and my back. Making sure I was strong in those areas.” 

The dialogue certainly won’t always be this rosy with Ross, though Lester was adamant to point out that regardless of his manager -- be it Joe Maddon, Tito Francona, or John Farrell -- his professionalism within the boundaries of the game has never changed. It’ll be no different with his latest boss.  

“Same as it’s always been, except now I get called out more in meetings,” Lester said, this time with the slightest hint of a smile. 

“It’s Rossy. What you see is what you get.”

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Could baseball's sign-stealing scandal lead to a manager's job for Ozzie Guillen?

Could baseball's sign-stealing scandal lead to a manager's job for Ozzie Guillen?

Will baseball's sign-stealing scandal have a silver lining for a South Side legend?

Three teams whose managers were caught up in the scandal are suddenly without skippers just a month away from the start of spring training: the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. The Astros' practice of stealing signs and relaying them to players on the field during their championship season in 2017 led to the firings of A.J. Hinch, Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran, creating three high-profile job openings.

January managerial searches aren't common, for obvious reasons, and while any or all of the teams in the market for a new manager could go about it as a regular search — potentially sticking with baseball's trend of young, inexperienced guys at the helm — there's a good argument to be made that an experienced skipper would be best to slide into that position this late in the offseason calendar.

There has been no shortage of suggested candidates, but one was conspicuously absent from an extensive list discussed on MLB Network, an experienced manager with a World Series championship on his resume. And that former manager was happy to point out the omission.

Guillen hasn't managed since 2012, after his one-year tenure leading the Miami Marlins came to an end. But he obviously turned in a legendary managerial career on the South Side, guiding the White Sox to a World Series win in 2005 and winning nearly 700 regular-season games during his eight seasons as skipper.

While the always outspoken Guillen does not exactly fit the trendy mold of an inexperienced manager with a close relationship to the front office, he's undoubtedly been successful running a major league team. That experience could prove valuable for any of the three teams that have seen their cultures get blown up in recent days.

Swooping in at the last minute to provide a steady hand for an organization in crisis isn't the typical way to land a long-term gig, and people with personalities like Guillen's are disappearing from managerial roles and the game, in general.

But the Astros, especially, as well as the Red Sox and Mets, to lesser degrees, are capable of winning. Guillen knows a thing or two about winning, and these front offices might want to keep that in mind as they're looking to fill these surprise vacancies.

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White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

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USA TODAY

White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

SAN DIEGO — David Price on the South Side? Maybe.

According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Boston Red Sox have had trade conversations involving Price with at least five teams, and the White Sox are “in play” for the veteran left-hander.

Boston is trying to shed salary, and getting rid of the $96 million remaining on Price’s deal over the next three years would be a good way to accomplish that goal.

The White Sox, given their financial flexibility, are a team that could absorb that kind of money in a trade. While much discussion of Rick Hahn’s statement in February that “the money will be spent” has focused on high-priced free agents, the general manager said Wednesday that such fiscal positioning could be beneficial on the trade market, too.

“Absolutely,” he said during his final media session of the Winter Meetings. “You’ve seen over the years us use our financial flexibility to acquire some contracts. I think back to the (Joakim) Soria trade with the Dodgers. The thing we brought to the table there was the ability to absorb some contracts. That flexibility doesn’t always have to be spent on free agents.”

But here’s the thing. ESPN’s Jeff Passan got this whole Price conversation going when he reported the interest of multiple teams on Tuesday, and he suggested the Red Sox might be able to ship Price out of town if they included a “player of value.” A young player with affordable club control would sweeten any such deal, and speculation latched onto outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who is under team control for three more years.

That’s the kind of deal — before we hear what it could cost, obviously — that would look like a good one for the White Sox.

Well, another nugget in Feinsand’s report throws that idea out the window.

“One scenario that has been floated in recent weeks would have the Red Sox attaching a young player — Andrew Benintendi's name has been mentioned often — to Price in order to dump the pitcher's contract.

“A source said that concept has not been considered by Boston's front office — nor will it be, especially not with Benintendi.

“‘That's not going to happen,’ the source said.”

If that’s the case, if the Red Sox are talking about a Price trade that doesn’t involve a young, controllable player coming back, is there any reason for the White Sox to consider such a move? Is there any reason to trade for Price alone?

The White Sox do need pitching, quite badly, as a matter of fact. Their quest for two arms to add to the starting rotation has yielded no additions yet, with their high bid for Zack Wheeler spurned in favor of a lower offer from the Philadelphia Phillies. Price would be an upgrade to the White Sox rotation, and they could potentially get him without having to give up any of their prized prospects (a trade involving someone like Benintendi might cost a high-level prospect, in addition to salary relief).

After turning in some memorable performances during the Red Sox championship run in 2018, Price got off to a great start in 2019, with a 3.16 ERA in his first 17 starts. But due to a cyst in his wrist, he made only two starts over the season’s final two months. He finished with a 4.28 ERA, second highest of his career.

Considering the White Sox are heading into 2020 with just three rotation spots spoken for, they could do a lot worse than Price from a production standpoint. But the veteran lefty doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation as a clubhouse presence. NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase listed several red flags in a recent piece: “He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily. He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.”

Do the White Sox need those headaches? Aren’t there options out there, via trade or free agency, that would bring in similar levels of production without all that other stuff? It doesn’t seem like a young team that is developing what appears to be a very positive culture needs someone who “consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse.”

Now, if someone like Benintendi — or, for example, the large contract of designated hitter J.D. Martinez — comes along with him, maybe it’s a pill you’re willing to swallow. Of course, that would require other unpleasant possibilities, such as letting a recent first-round draft pick like Nick Madrigal or Andrew Vaughn go. Hahn talked about the team’s unwillingness to deal away its prized prospects for a short-term gain. The White Sox lost a combined 195 games to end up with the draft picks that produced Madrigal and Vaughn. That was an awful lot of suffering just to trade those guys away.

A potential Price trade has its upsides, but ones contingent on other aspects of such a deal. If those aspects go by the wayside, acquiring Price doesn’t make quite as much sense.

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