Jon Lester Rumors

AL East Notes: Lester, Blue Jays, Rays

The Red Sox want relief help, but they aren't likely to pursue high-priced acquisitions, reports WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. That means no moves like last year's trade for Joel Hanrahan, and it also means they won't be in the market for players like Joe Nathan or Grant Balfour. Still, GM Ben Cherington hopes to acquire relievers who might end up pitching in key spots. "We want as many guys as possible that we think have the potential and the stuff to pitch in high-leverage situations," he says. Here's more news from the AL East.

  • The Red Sox have not begun discussing an extension with starting pitcher Jon Lester, but they appear likely to do so near the start of spring training, Bradford writes. If the Red Sox do sign Lester to an extension, they will likely wait until after Opening Day to complete it, since his current contract only counts $9.4MM per season against the 2014 luxury tax. The average annual value of an extension would likely be far greater.
  • The Blue Jays may need to add two starters this winter, writes SportsNet.ca's Shi Davidi. They have R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, and also Brandon Morrow, who's recovering from a forearm injury. After that, they'll be leaning on players like J.A. Happ, Esmil Rogers, and Todd Redmond, plus youngsters Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison and Sean Nolin. That group isn't the greatest bet to provide top-quality innings, at least not in 2014.
  • The Rays are interested in finding a first baseman, catcher and late-inning reliever this offseason, the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin tweets. The reliever may not be a proven-closer type, which is no surprise given the Rays' budgetary constraints. They'll also look for bench help.

Red Sox Links: Beltran, Hanigan, Hanrahan, Rotation

Multiple reports indicate that the Red Sox are interested in Carlos Beltran, though the extent of that interest is somewhat up in the air. George A. King III of the New York Post reports that Boston is "aggressively" pursuing Beltran but are receiving early competition from the Yankees and Orioles. Elsewhere, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo tweets that the Red Sox do indeed have interest in the eight-time All-Star, but a team source tells him they haven't been very aggressive to this point. Here are some more BoSox items for your Friday morning…

  • Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen appeared on WEEI's Hot Stove Show on Thursday to discuss David Ross and other internal catching options, how other teams may try to copy Boston's offseason strategy from last year and how the team could be more open to giving up their first round draft pick in order to sign a qualifying offer-rejecting free agent.  WEEI.com's Alex Speier has a partial transcript of the interview.
  • Another catching option could be Reds backstop Ryan Hanigan, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes.  Hanigan is expected to be shopped now that Cincinnati has signed Brayan Pena, and Hanigan's defense and on-base ability would certainly be of interest to the Red Sox.
  • Joel Hanrahanspoke with WEEI.com's Rob Bradford and discussed how difficult it was to watch from home in October this season — the first time one of his teams had ever been to the playoffs: "…I didn’t want to take time away from the trainers who are trying to keep the guys on the field who are playing. I didn’t want to be in the way. It was tough for me, but it was a whole heck of a lot of fun watching at home and seeing the success they had." Hanrahan said he's received calls from multiple eams already to check in on his rehab and spoke highly of Boston's training staff and the organization as a whole. According to Bradford, Hanrahan is throwing from 120 feet and hopes to have a few bullpen sessions under his belt prior to the onset of Spring Training.
  • The Sox may have six competent starters under contract for next season — Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster — but GM Ben Cherington told MLB.com's Ian Browne that he doesn't envision trading one of them this winter.
  • Barring a trade of Dempster or Peavy, WEEI.com's Alex Speier figures that the Red Sox will have just over $32MM to spend and still successfully avoid this year's $189MM luxury tax threshold. That number, theorizes Speier, could be the reason that the Red Sox couldn't afford to gamble on making qualifying offers to all three of Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Saltalmacchia, of course, was the odd man out and didn't receive a qualifying offer.
  • In a separate piece, Speier provides an excellent breakdown of the CBA's calculation of average annual value for luxury tax purposes, explaining how Lester's AAV next season will jump to $9.37MM now that his option has been exercised.

MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post


AL East Notes: Red Sox, Lester, Granderson, Feldman

The Red Sox recipe for a championship has been discussed extensively, ever since it became clear that the team was going to be a real contender. But how does it work as a model for other teams? The New York Post's Joel Sherman, for one, thinks it was a one-time stroke. (He compares the lasting power of GM Ben Cherington's mid-tier free agent binge unfavorably to that of the Macarena.) As Sherman well explains, the circumstances for Boston's worst-to-first turnaround are fairly unique, including the Sox' preexisting talent base and nigh-unbelievable success rate in its free agent signings. While teams are likely to have taken account of the lessons that Cherington taught in occupying the market's midsection, says Sherman, no single one can replicate it. And teams will find their dollars won't go quite as far as did Boston's last time around. More from the American League East:

  • Boston had an offer on the table from the Royals that would have sent Jon Lester to KC in exchange for Wil Myers, reports the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber. When the Sox asked for time to think, Kansas City instead used Myers to bring back James Shields from the Rays. Lauber says that the Red Sox are lucky not to have acted on that tempting trade offer, arguing that Lester has turned into an "undisputed ace." While there is no question that Lester played a critical role in the team's World Series run, that characterization might be subject to some debate — Lester was tied with Jhoulys Chacin for 16th in fWAR among qualified starters this year, but ranked 52nd in ERA and 41st in FIP. 
  • On the other hand, Lester is eighth among starters in cumulative fWAR since 2008, making clear that he has been both excellent and durable. Lauber goes on to weight a possible new contract for the sturdy lefty. He points to two possible comparables: the five-year, $85MM deal signed by Jered Weaver of the Angels, and the six-year, $144MM pact handed Cole Hamels. According to Lauber, the Sox should be interested in an extension — in spite of their prospect depth — if they can get Lester for something more like the lesser of those two deals.
  • The Yankees have yet to decide whether to issue outfielder Curtis Granderson a qualifying offer, reports Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. Perhaps hoping to deter just that possibility, Granderson's agent Matt Brown said that "there's definitely a possibility" that his client would accept an offer. Of course, he also emphasized that Granderson remains "a pretty elite guy" who will be sought after on the free agent market. MLBTR's Steve Adams predicts that the market will value him in the three-year, $45MM range. A qualifying offer, and subsequent rejection of same, still seems the likeliest scenario.
  • Orioles GM Dan Duquette may have a lot of free agents clearing the books, but that doesn't mean he'll be rushing to act on most of them, says the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly. Mid-season starter acquisition Scott Feldman is the top target among them for a Baltimore club that does not figure to flash too much cash on the market, Connolly explains, but the O's aren't likely to go past two years for him. 


AL East Links: Price, Lester, Papi, Orioles

Timing will be the trickiest issue of the offseason for Rays, GM Andrew Friedman tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Even if Friedman has an early opportunity to address first base (e.g. re-signing James Loney) or left field, he will have to keep the possibility of a David Price trade in the back of his mind. Acting too quickly to fill either hole could cause the team to miss out on a superior, more permanent option at the position that could be filled in a potential Price trade. Says Friedman: "We have to utilize all the information we have accumulated to that point to make the best decision possible while also appreciating the trickle-down effect of each move." Here's more from the AL East…

  • Jon Lester told reporters, including WEEI.com's Alex Speier, that he's excited to be returning to the Red Sox for another year after having his option picked up but hopes that he can work out a long-term deal with the team. Lester is currently more focused on celebrating Boston's 2013 World Series victory, but said "Hopefully [next year is] not the only one and we can be here for a long time."
  • David Ortiz is still producing at a virtually ageless clip, writes Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald in arguing that the Red Sox should extend their DH. Big Papi is signed through 2014, but his potent bat and status as face of the franchise should earn him a lengthier guarantee, opines Silverman.
  • The Orioles must decide if they wish to protect left-handers Chris Jones and Tim Berry as well as catcher Michael Ohman from the Rule 5 Draft by adding them to their 40-man roster, says Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Connolly also points out the potential fit between the O's and Mark Ellis, should Brian Roberts not be re-signed. There's still some mutual interest between Baltimore and Roberts, Connolly reports.

Red Sox Exercise 2014 Option On Jon Lester

NOV. 1, 5:10pm: The Red Sox have officially announced the exercise of the option, by way of a team press release.

NOV. 1, 4:32pm: WEEI.com's Rob Bradford tweets that the Red Sox have now officially picked up Lester's option. 

SEPT. 9, 11:11pm: The Red Sox are "all but certain" to pick up Lester's option, MLB.com's Ian Browne writes. But Browne also reports that the team won't lock itself into that decision until after the season is over.

9:09pm: The Red Sox have agreed to pick up their $13MM 2014 option on starting pitcher Jon Lester, Anthony Witrado, formerly of the Sporting News, tweets. The option comes at the end of a five-year, $30MM deal that covered the 2009 through 2013 seasons. Lester is guaranteed a $250K buyout if Boston does not pick up his option.

Lester has a 3.86 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 193 1/3 innings in 2013. Those aren't Cy Young-type numbers, but the decision to pick up Lester's option still looks like it should be an easy one for the Red Sox, since Lester is relatively young (29) and fairly consistent from year to year. (He posted a 4.82 ERA in 2012, but his peripherals were very consistent with those of years past.) Lester has posted a WAR north of 3.0 in all of the last six seasons and appears to be a good bet to do it again in 2014, meaning he's easily worth what is essentially a one-year, $12.75MM contract.

Steve Adams and Jeff Todd contributed to the post.


Cafardo On Price, BoSox, Granderson, Loney, Dodgers

While David Price has resigned himself to being traded, the Rays appear to be trying to figure out ways to make their ace the focal point of their pitching staff for many years to come, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo notes, however, the Rays' front office realizes it could be a losing battle, so a trade is likely with nearly half of baseball rumored to be interested in the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. "It's a big name, a big-time pitcher," one National League GM told Cafardo. "Even if you feel you don't need that level of pitcher, you look into it because he's so special and such a game changer. You do more than kick the tires. You try to make something happen, and I think you'll see teams that don't even need him step up." Here's more from Cafardo's column:

  • The Red Sox will likely trade one of their veteran starters to make room for their young arms. Cafardo suggests Jon Lester and Jake Peavy could be available while Ryan Dempster, John Lackey, and Felix Doubront are also vulnerable.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury is a perfect fit for the Mariners and Carlos Beltran likewise for the Orioles.
  • Curtis Granderson will likely receive a qualifying offer from the Yankees and there's a strong possibility he would take it because he could post his biggest numbers at Yankee Stadium.
  • The Dodgers will make Andre Ethier and/or Matt Kemp available this winter. Kemp will come with injury concerns, but that shouldn't prevent a team from taking a chance on his talent.
  • James Loney has rebuilt his value with a strong season in Tampa (.299/.348/.430 with a 2.1 oWAR in 158 games and 598 plate appearances). Loney could find a market with the Rangers, if the Rays don't re-sign the free agent first baseman.
  • Reds pitching coach Bryan Price appears to be the front-runner to replace Dusty Baker as manager in Cincinnati while Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr is in a strong position to take over from Davey Johnson, unless ownership wants a bigger name as its new manager.

AL East Notes: Girardi, Lester, Rays, Price, Janssen

The Yankees have made a substantial offer to keep manager Joe Girardi, Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York reports. A source tells Marchand that Girardi could think about the offer through the weekend. "We are going to give him a real good reason to stay," says GM Brian Cashman. Rumors have connected Girardi to the Cubs' managerial job, which might be a possibility if he chooses to leave. The Nationals and Reds also have managerial openings that Girardi might find attractive. Girardi is currently under contract with the Yankees through the end of October. Here are more notes from the AL East.

  • Last offseason, the Red Sox and Royals discussed a possible trade involving Jon Lester and Wil Myers, Lester tells WEEI.com's Alex Speier. "[Royals manager Ned Yost] is actually a pretty good friend of mine. I flat-out called him one day and was like, 'Hey, what do you got on this?' He said, ‘Yeah, we’re trying to make it work,'" Lester says. One reason the trade ultimately didn't happen is that the Royals finally traded Myers and three other players to the Rays, the Red Sox's current ALDS opponent, for a package headlined by James Shields.
  • One assistant GM proposes that the Rays could trade David Price to the Dodgers for Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Julio Urias and Chris Withrow, Peter Gammons writes. That would give the Rays two very good hitting prospects in Seager and Pederson, a very young arm in Urias, and a big-league reliever in Withrow. MLB.com ranks Pederson and Seager the top two prospects in the Dodgers system, with Urias at No. 4.
  • The Blue Jays are "sure" to pick up their $4MM option on closer Casey Janssen, writes Shi Davidi of SportsNet.ca. Janssen is coming off a strong season, so the decision would seem to be an easy one. Davidi notes that Janssen would likely make twice as much on the open market, and win a multi-year deal to boot.

East Links: Jeter, Drew, CarGo, Gonzalez, Lester

Yankees GM Brian Cashman may be forced to play the bad guy role again as the club considers how they'll address Derek Jeter given the captain's age and durability issues, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes. Three scouts and three executives polled by Harper each said they believe Cashman will acquire an everyday shortstop this offseason, as they don't believe Jeter will be able to handle the position and the Yankees don't have acceptable alternatives. "He’ll be a 40-year old shortstop who already had limited range," one executive said, noting Jeter's injured ankle. "If you’re the GM, it’s your responsibility to make the tough decision for the good of the ballclub.” Here's more notes from around the majors' eastern divisions…

  • The majority of the six baseball people who Harper spoke with suggested shortstop Stephen Drew as a potential free agent acquisition for the Yankees. While Drew has posted a solid .249/.331/.436 line this season and would be a good fit for Yankee Stadium, signing with the Yanks would place him in a delicate situation. "Would Drew — or anyone else — want to sign on as the guy pushing an unwilling Jeter into a role where he would DH mostly and play short only occasionally?" Harper asks.
  • The Mets covet the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez, and one executive familiar with the Rockies' thinking tells Harper they're likely to listen to offers for the star outfielder. However, a trade appears unlikely, as the Rockies want young position players and aren't interested in what the Mets can offer in that regard. Colorado may also consider offers for Troy Tulowitzki, Harper says.
  • CC Sabathia's 4.90 ERA would be the second-worst mark in Yankees history by a pitcher to surpass the 200 inning threshold, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. “I have always been bend-but-don’t-break, and I have broken a lot this year,” Sabathia commented. Sherman says Sabathia has adjusted his delivery in order to better stay on top of the ball so that his fastball does not cut toward the middle of the plate. 
  • Mets GM Sandy Alderson is on track to become the first GM in club history to post increasing loss totals in each of his first three seasons from the team he inherited, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets. The team clinched its fifth consecutive losing season in dropping today's game with the Marlins.
  • The Phillies have no plans for recent Cuban acquisition Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to pitch competitively this season, Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer says. The team sees Gonzalez sliding into the third slot of their 2014 rotation behind Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee"We just want to see where he's at," assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said. "We want to get him assimilated into our organization and be ready to go for spring training."
  • The Red Sox have yet to broach the subject of Jon Lester's next contract, GM Ben Cherington revealed in an interview with WEEI.com. "We just feel like those issues are better left for after we’re done playing, which hopefully is several weeks from now," Cherington said. We recently heard that the Sox are "all but certain" to pick up their $13MM option on Lester for next year.

Quick Hits: Vlad, Murphy, Ryan, Lester

On this date in 2002, the Mets claimed a 26-year-old shortstop off waivers from the Brewers. He had just posted a .295/.382/.432 batting line in Triple-A Indianapolis a year prior, and would go on to make his Major League debut for the Mets that season. The infielder would bat just .216/.299/.351 in 129 plate appearances for the Mets over the next two years before being plucked off waivers again — this time by the A's. Marco Scutaro would eventually cement himself as a late bloomer and ultimately help the Giants to a World Series title before inking a three-year, $20MM contract this offseason. Here are some links from around the league as we enter the season's first full weekend…

  • Vladimir Guerrero turned down offers to play in Taiwan and in Quebec to sign with the Long Island Ducks, writes ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. Crasnick goes on to explain that Guerrero's goal is to get back into Major League Baseball and chase the 500-homer plateau. He's currently 51 long balls shy with 449 in his career.
  • There have been no serious extension talks between David Murphy and the Rangers, tweets Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. Murphy plans to play out the season and think about his next deal in the offseason.
  • Nolan Ryan will be at the Rangers home opener today, and he's taking a "wait-and-see" approach as he decides his future with the team, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that a rebound campaign from Red Sox lefty Jon Lester will likely result in a mega-deal that's comparable to some of the "silly money" deals doled out to starting pitchers around the game recently. Cafardo breaks down the track records of pitchers like Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels and others and compares them to Lester.

East Notes: Marlins, Aceves, Lester, Blue Jays

The Marlins have an Opening Day, on-field payroll of just $36.1MM, about $58MM less than in 2012, Juan Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel notes. That the Marlins' team is dramatically less expensive than it was at this point last year is hardly news, but it's still startling to see a list of the team's players and their salaries, as Rodriguez provides here. After Ricky Nolasco at $11.5MM, the next-highest-paid Marlin is Placido Polanco, who will make $2.75MM.

  • "A few teams" were interested in trading for Alfredo Aceves of the Red Sox, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes (on Twitter). But injuries to Franklin Morales and Craig Breslow, along with Daniel Bard's control problems, meant it wasn't possible for the Sox to deal Aceves.
  • Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester isn't interested in discussing a contract extension during the season, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI. "If something did come up during the season I probably wouldn't listen," says Lester. "I don't want to deal with it. I think it's too much of a distraction." Lester will make $11.625MM in 2013, and the Red Sox have a $13MM option, with a $250K buyout, for Lester's services in 2014.
  • The Blue Jays added plenty of talent this offseason, adding R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and others, but bold offseasons don't necessarily lead to big results, Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com argues. McAdam points to the 2011 Red Sox (who did finish third, although they also won 90 games) and 2012 Marlins as examples of teams that have disappointed in the years following exciting offseasons.