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Jon Lester Rumors
7:11pm: The Red Sox have shown a willingness to continue negotiating after their initial offer, reports Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.
4:44pm: Boston’s offer to Lester is in the $110-120MM range over six years, according to Cafardo (on Twitter). While that’s a notable step up in terms of their offer from last offseason, it’s still less than most expect Lester to accept.
11:28am: The club has indeed extended an offer to the Sandoval, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
The Lester offer is “aggressive” and is of at least five years in duration, McAdam adds.
7:29am: The Red Sox have an offer on the table to free agent lefty Jon Lester, according to a report from Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. Lester is expected to take his time considering the proposal, and still has several other clubs with significant interest to explore.
Lester, the club’s once — and possibly future — ace, seems to be the top starter whose market is moving fastest at present. Clubs with reported interest also include the Cubs, Braves, Blue Jays, Royals, and Cardinals. There continue to be whispers that the Yankees could get involved, though concrete reports are lacking. A recent report suggests that six teams could be in the game.
Meanwhile, things remain quiet for the other top two starting arms, but that may not be surprising. James Shields could be a consolation prize for several teams in the mix for Lester, while Max Scherzer‘s agent, Scott Boras, has a well-documented reputation for not pushing the market with his premium players.
The Royals have now officially waved goodbye to long-time DH Billy Butler, who signed a three-year pact with the A’s that was announced this morning. Kansas City had its chance to keep him, of course, but declined a $12.5MM club option on the right-handed hitter, preferring instead to pay him a $1MM buyout.
Here’s the latest out of Kansas City:
- In a piece discussing the anticipated loss of Butler, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star indicates that the team remains intent on making impact additions to its roster, particularly to the rotation. The club has had at least opening discussions with agents for Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester, writes McCullough.
- Francisco Liriano is also a consideration for the Royals, as are many other arms in the mid-tier of free agents, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. And trade possibilities are also being explored. The team is still dabbling in the markets for Lester and Shields, Heyman notes, but seemingly has eyes for Liriano and Santana
- Torii Hunter is a definite target, says Heyman. The team believes that he is still a reliable bat and sees him as a quality fit.
- Kansas City is considering utilizing Carlos Peguero in a time-share in right field and at DH, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City. That plan would be particularly interesting if the team could pair the left-handed-hitting Peguero with a veteran right-handed bat of Hunter’s ilk.
4:46pm: The Cardinals are also interested in Lester, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com reports on Twitter.
9:14am: The Braves have a meeting with left-hander Jon Lester this week, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (via Twitter). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported last week that Atlanta had briefly touched base with Lester’s representatives at ACES and speculated that more serious interest could materialize if they moved some payroll. Rosenthal tweets that the meeting will take place on Thursday.
The Braves dealt Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to the Cardinals yesterday in a move that looked to be signaling a brief rebuild. However, one could also look at that move and see more than $11MM in savings on next year’s payroll plus the addition of an arm (Shelby Miller) that can be a significant boost to their rotation in 2015. Despite the cost savings on Walden and Heyward, however, Lester would seem too expensive a target. Atlanta already has about $70MM committed to just seven roster spots, plus perhaps as much as $16MM in arbitration raises. Lester figures to command an annual salary well north of $20MM, possibly around $25MM, making him a financial stretch. Atlanta had a record payroll of $112MM in 2014.
However, it’s possible that the Braves could free up more payroll space that would make a Lester addition more feasible. Atlanta has long been exploring ways to free itself of at least part of the remaining $46.5MM owed to B.J. Upton, and a trade of Justin Upton, who earns $14.5MM next year, hasn’t been entirely ruled out. Atlanta would probably also love to get out from underneath the remaining $23.5MM on Chris Johnson‘s contract, although that figures to be challenging to move as well.
While Lester seems like a stretch in terms of payroll, the Braves have a need for starting pitching. Currently, Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Mike Minor and Miller are penciled into the rotation, and it’s unknown what the team can expect from Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen as the duo return from their second Tommy John operations. David Hale presents an option but seems better suited for a swingman role similar to the one he filled in 2014.
The Blue Jays were the only team that put a fifth year on the table for Russell Martin, tweets Jim Bowden of of ESPN.com, and that was the key to landing the backstop. With Toronto having fired the first major offseason salvo in the AL East, let’s see where things stand elsewhere in the division …
- Martin’s signing does not mark an early conclusion to the Blue Jays‘ offseason, but rather opens up new possibilities for GM Alex Anthopoulos, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. The move also highlights Anthopoulos’s desire to “rearrang[e] the clubhouse dynamics,” says Davidi.
- Pablo Sandoval met with the Red Sox today, and the club will also sit down with Jon Lester before the lefty flies off for meetings with other suitors tomorrow, reports WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Boston never made an effort to acquire Jason Heyward before he was sent to St. Louis, reports Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.
- The Yankees are largely waiting and watching at the moment, according to George A. King III of the New York Post. It is possible that the Rangers would be willing to part with shortstop Elvis Andrus, but it remains unknown whether New York would take on enough cash or part with sufficient prospects to make a deal attractive to Texas. And the team’s own free agents still seem to be feeling out the market at present.
- King notes that an arm like Max Scherzer could become increasingly appealing to the Yankees as the offseason progresses, and indeed Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that there has been at least “brief contact” between the team and Scott Boras (Scherzer’s agent) since the GM Meetings. New York “may revisit their initial instinct to largely sit this winter out,” per Heyman, who explains that the silence around Scherzer’s market is rather unusual.
As if signing Russell Martin wasn’t enough, the Blue Jays are also looking to address their rotation and bullpen. Toronto is one of the six teams in the market for southpaw Jon Lester, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports. The Jays have also been “very aggressive” in courting Andrew Miller, Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair (Twitter link) hears from a source on another team in pursuit of the free agent reliever.
As a durable top-of-the-rotation arm with a lot of AL East familiarity, Lester makes sense for the Jays, though they already have six starters (Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada) in play for their 2015 rotation. Starting pitching isn’t an obvious need, though since the Blue Jays will probably have to move at least one starter to address other needs anyway, they could package two arms in one deal or make multiple trades. The Martin signing indicates that Toronto is willing to spend and be players in free agency, though meeting Lester’s projected six-year/$150MM price tag would take things to another level for the Jays.
The Red Sox are known to be one of Lester’s other five suitors, and it’s safe to assume that the Cubs are another given how they’re meeting with him this week and have been so often linked in rumors.
Miller recently met with the Jays, and it’s probably no surprise that Toronto is being aggressive given that they’re one of a whopping 22 teams who have reportedly checked in with agent Mark Rodgers about Miller’s services. Miller is looking for a four-year deal at minimum, and he’ll likely find it with such a healthy market. The Blue Jays could offer Miller a closing role, as Casey Janssen is likely to depart in free agency and Toronto has no clear in-house replacement for the ninth inning job.
Which of this offseason’s free agents are most likely to justify their contracts? It’s hard to say, given that we most big-name free agents haven’t even agreed to terms yet, but Doug Miller polled MLB.com’s writers to compile a list of top free agents, and they think Jon Lester‘s next contract is most likely to turn out to be a good one. Miller notes that contracts for pitchers often go south, but points out that Lester is healthy, left-handed and relatively young, and has been a consistently strong performer. Perhaps the most outside-the-box choice is Andrew Miller at No. 3, the idea being that Miller’s lack of closer status will limit him on the market, perhaps to three years and under $30MM. Here are the latest notes from the American League:
- Scott Boras told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio he has not heard anything from the Tigers indicating they are not interested in re-signing Max Scherzer. MLB.com’s Jason Beck has a partial transcript of the interview, including Boras saying he is not worried about the lack of teams linked to Scherzer while implying clubs may sign his client and then open a spot in their rotation by trading another of their starters calling this “a two-step process.”
- Speaking of Scherzer (the top ranked free agent on MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agents list), the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman believes the Red Sox should kick those tires because their rotation is in shambles. Lester is the preferred option, according to Silverman, but a trade for Cole Hamels may wind up being the surest route for the Red Sox to get the caliber of starter they need.
- The Tigers have until Thursday to exercise Alex Avila‘s 2015 option, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. If the Tigers opt for the $200K buyout rather than the $5.4MM option, Morosi notes Avila will remain on their roster because he is still arbitration eligible.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wonders if the Dodgers‘ outfield surplus could net them a solution to their shortstop situation. Los Angeles isn’t expected to re-sign Hanley Ramirez and with underwhelming options on the open market, it stands to reason that the Dodgers could explore trading from their strongest area to find a replacement. Earlier this week, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman acknowledged that “the best course of action” would probably be to trade one of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, or Carl Crawford. More from today’s column..
- While Jon Lester is reportedly receiving “legitimate interest” from six interested clubs, some are skeptical about his market. “Really? Six teams are going to be six years at $150 million for Jon Lester?” said one NL executive. “Sounds like agent enhancement of his client to me.”
- The Red Sox have already shot down a couple of proposals from the Phillies involving Cole Hamels. Cafardo expects the Phillies to reopen talks with Boston.
- The Mariners have fielded inquiries from a few teams on Hisashi Iwakuma and the Red Sox have had at least internal conversations about the 33-year-old right-hander. The Mariners, meanwhile, would want an impact hitter like Yoenis Cespedes in return.
- It’s expected that the Red Sox would want to offer Pablo Sandoval a contract with bonuses that would reward him for staying within a certain range. A Giants official told Cafardo that Sanoval lost almost 30 pounds in the offseason only to gain 20 of them back during the season. The CBA forbids teams from taking money away from players for gaining weight, but they can incentivize staying trim.
- Mark Mulder continues to work toward a comeback but he indicated to Cafardo that he’s not 100% sure it will happen. Mulder was making a run at it last offseason when during one of his workouts he tore his Achilles. Afterwards, the hurler returned to ESPN as an analyst.
- Rival scouts have worked hard to cut through the hype in their evaluations of the Red Sox‘s pitching prospects. The biggest debate concerns Henry Owens and how his 92-mile-per-hour fastball and slow curve would play in the big leagues. Meanwhile, some believe that left-hander Brian Johnson might be the best pitcher in Boston’s system.
- Cafardo reported last week that the Tigers are listening to trade proposals on Alex Avila and mentioned the Braves and Red Sox as possible suitors for his left-handed bat. Today, Cafardo added the Cardinals as a team that could see him as a solid backup option.
Payroll parity has improved throughout baseball, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. A combination of TV deals and luxury taxes have contributed to evening the playing field between the big earners and the laggards. As Mets GM Sandy Anderson points out, “there are outliers in both directions.” Yet we’ve also seen traditionally cautious clubs like the Reds sign Joey Votto to a large contract and outbid the Yankees on two Cuban players. The advantage may cycle back to large market clubs as they hire the best talent away from smaller market. We’ve seen the Dodgers snap up key personnel from the Rays and A’s this offseason which also allowed the Cubs to snag former Rays manager Joe Maddon. Brewers GM Doug Melvin isn’t concerned, saying “more (front office personnel) doesn’t mean better.”
- The Cubs and Red Sox will meet with Jon Lester this week, tweets Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons. The Yankees could play the role of dark horse. While other sources have reported that Lester is willing to sign quickly, Gammons suggests the process may last into December.
- Pitcher Josh Johnson is talking with five to six clubs, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Padres remain the righty hurler’s first choice, although nothing is imminent. My own thoughts: I’m not sure I see San Diego as a fit unless they trade from their current stock of starters. While pitcher friendly Petco Park is a good destination for Johnson as he seeks to reestablish himself, the Padres appear to have five starters and at least four depth pieces. Surely, another club can offer Johnson an easier path to starts.
- Yoan Moncada‘s expected $30MM to $40MM price tag (reported on Nov. 12) isn’t the only impediment for interested clubs, writes Baseball America’s Ben Badler. Teams routinely reach handshake agreements with the next crop of international free agents well in advance of the July 2nd signing period. Any club who signs Moncada will not be able to sign an international player for over $300K, which would force many teams to rescind existing agreements. While that may not sound like a big issue, Badler describes Latin American scouting as a “small world.” A misstep could alienate the small cadre of influential trainers in the region. Moncada achieved free agency earlier today, although he has not yet been cleared by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Red Sox ownership will meet Jon Lester and his agents this week, a likely signal that the Sox are set to make a significant offer, Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston writes. An offer in the $130MM neighborhood ought to be enough to persuade Lester to strongly consider continuing his career in Boston, Edes writes. Six teams reportedly have strong interest in Lester. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The Orioles will have to take a large number of players through the arbitration process this offseason, but one they do have a tough decision on is outfielder Alejandro De Aza, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. Kubatko suggests the O’s should keep De Aza, who batted .293/.341/.537 in 89 plate appearances and also hit well in the postseason after arriving in a trade with the White Sox.
- ESPN analyst Doug Glanville, who hasn’t coached, managed or worked in a front office since he retired as a player, isn’t a standard managerial candidate for the Rays, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. The Rays recently interviewed Glanville and today interviewed Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, who join a crowded field of candidates that also includes Manny Acta, Kevin Cash, Craig Counsell, Raul Ibanez, Dave Martinez, Charlie Montoyo, Don Wakamatsu and Ron Wotus. “Maybe I am a dark horse (candidate), I don’t know,” says Glanville. “I approach it like, ‘Why not?’“
- Phillies president David Montgomery expects to return eventually from a medical leave of absence after having jaw bone cancer surgery last spring, writes MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. “The good news is my prognosis is excellent,” says Montgomery. “The chemo and radiation I did was preventative. I’ve basically kind of been dismissed by doctors. I have periodic PET scans … Hopefully I’ll have that 45th season.” Montgomery has been in the organization for 44 seasons. Pat Gillick is serving as the Phillies’ interim president.
Six teams have expressed “legitimate interest” in signing Jon Lester, a source tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. The Red Sox are among the six interested parties, while the Mariners have not shown real interest to this point. As Bradford notes, Boston GM Ben Cherington told reporters, including Bradford, that while he did meet with Lester’s camp on Tuesday evening, no figures were exchanged. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets that Cherington spoke with one of Lester’s agents again today, making the second straight day the two sides have talked.
While Cherington said he doesn’t expect any signings from Boston by the end of the week, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com tweets that Red Sox ownership has requested to meet with Lester’s representatives at ACES personally, possibly as soon as this week. Beyond that, Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com hears from a source that Boston is willing to make an exception to its well-known aversion to significant investments in pitchers on the wrong side of 30 in order to bring Lester back into the fold. Meanwhile, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com tweets that Lester will meet with the Cubs in Chicago sometime next week.
Last night, Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com reported that Lester is willing to sign at any time, whether it be within a matter of days or months, if a team presents an offer to his liking. The Yankees, reportedly, will not pursue Lester or any of the top three starters on the market.