While a large number of clubs have been said to be interested in lefty ace Jon Lester, both the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox upped the stakes Tuesday, but so did the San Francisco Giants.
The fight for Jon Lester, a very, very good left-handed pitcher and a free agent, has been harried and MLB has yet to even reach this year’s annual winter meetings. The meetings used to be the place where all the wheeling and dealing is done but it seems that more and more, teams are looking at the meetings as a deadline.
Of course it isn’t just the Cubs, Red Sox and Giants who have been linked to the southpaw. Many more teams want to procure Lester’s services. Among them the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Dodgers and of course, there’s been speculation that the New York Yankees will change their mind about not signing free agents this year and at the last minute throw more money at Lester than anyone else can.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Lester, a two-time All-Star with an almost perfect postseason record, has never won a Cy Young. Lester was supposed to get attention yes, but not nearly as much as Max Scherzer.
Scherzer, most recently the ace of the Detroit Tigers staff, who won 21 games in 2013 does have a Cy Young Award. He was great in 2014 too, finished the season having pitched 220.1 innings, making 33 starts, winning 18 of them while losing just five. His ERA? A tidy 3.15.
Scherzer was rated the number one free agent in the league going into the offseason by many, including ESPN. While Scherzer may still command more money than Jon Lester in the end, no one thought that the stakes or the competition would be this high.
The Red Sox, who met with Lester last week and most recently just signed Sandoval and shortstop Hanley Ramirez to deals that together equal almost $200 million, have stated publicly that they are willing to exceed their payroll and absorb a luxury tax in order to retain Lester.
The organization attempted to make a deal with him prior to the 2014 season, but it was only a four-year deal while the 31-year-old is seeking something more along the lines of six years.
Lester rejected it and was traded to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes at the July 31st trade deadline. Its been said that he has maintained a good relationship with the club and Lester has expressed the sentiment of wanting to return to Boston where he spent eight seasons before landing in California.
The Cubs reportedly put an offer on the table when they too met with Lester last week. Although the club has yet to confirm it, CSN Chicago’s David Kaplan had this to say on his Tuesday morning radio show,
“What I’m hearing is the Chicago Cubs have made a significant offer – significant north of $135 million.”
The Atlanta Braves have been after Lester as well. He’s had meetings with the Braves but there has not been a reported offer or number leaked to the public.
Back in September, Lester told CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman,
“I am not about signing the biggest deal. For me it is about the happiness of my family.”
Lester’s family resides outside of Atlanta, mere minutes away from the stadium. They’re also very used to Boston having spent so much time there. The statement by Lester seems to give both Atlanta and Boston an advantage over other clubs.
However, Lester also has a good relationship with former Boston GM and current Cubs’ GM Theo Epstein. The new look of the guys from Chicago’s North Side could be appealing. The Cubs have built their current ballclub from the ground up and many are predicting that within a couple years they might finally break the “Curse of the Billy Goat” by returning to and winning a World Series.
Now, the 2014 World Champion Giants are in the running. Lester would not be the ace of their staff as that distinction unequivocally goes to World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, however, playing for a team fresh off its third title in five years certainly has some appeal and if the money is right Lester could end up there.
The situation is much more complicated than originally expected and most of the teams linked to the lefty have legitimate reasons to believe that Lester will come and play for their club.
It’s all speculation right now though. In the end the only one who can tell us where Lester will end up is Jon Lester.
Stay with BBST for future updates on this story.