Jon Lester Rumors
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is focused on resolving Jon Lester's contract one way or another this week prior to Opening Day, he told reporters including WEEI's Rob Bradford. Though Lester has indicated a willingness to continue contract talks during the season if the two sides are close, Cherington prefers to wrap things up before the Red Sox open their season in Baltimore a week from today.
Lester, 30, is eligible for free agency after the season.
Very early this morning, the 2014 MLB regular season will officially begin, as Wade Miley and the Diamondbacks host Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers at 3:00am Central at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia. Here are a few notes from around the Major Leagues.
- Considerations regarding the luxury-tax threshold will not affect the timing of potential extensions for David Ortiz and/or Jon Lester, writes Alex Speier of WEEI.com. In the past, the Red Sox might have waited to announce extensions until after Opening Day, because the average annual value of those extensions might have caused the team to go over the luxury-tax threshold that year. Now, however, the CBA stipulates that new extensions that begin in the future will not affect current contracts as long as the terms of those contracts remain the same. So, for example, if the Red Sox were to sign Lester to an extension, he would still only count his current $9.37MM against the luxury-tax threshold for 2014 as long as the extension did not change his 2014 salary.
- Lester could allow extension negotiations to continue into the regular season under the right circumstances, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. "If you’re at the 5-yard line and you’re closing in on the thing, yeah, let’s spill it over (into the season)," he says. "But if we’re so far apart that it doesn’t matter, then no. That’s something you discuss when you get to that point."
- Outfielder Robbie Grossman won't say whether he and the Astros are working on an extension, but he does tell the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich that he would have interest in one. "I’m from Houston. I want to be able to play for the Astros my whole career if possible, and that’s all I have to say." On Thursday, a report indicated that the Astros had discussed an extension with Grossman.
- Astros NRI Peter Moylan has been diagnosed with a high-grade tear in the UCL in his elbow, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. Moylan pitched 15 1/33 innings for the Dodgers last season.
- The White Sox' farm system is on the rise, MLB.com's Jim Callis writes. That's thanks in part to an increase in draft spending in the past two seasons. Callis notes that their 2013 class, topped by first-round shortstop Tim Anderson, is "one of its most promising in recent memory." The White Sox have also increased their efforts to sign Latin American amateurs.
6:02pm: A "significant gap" still remains between the Sox and Lester, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
2:37pm: Lester says that he and the Red Sox have made progress on an extension but are "not in the red zone," tweets Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald adds that Lester is willing to continue negotiating into the season if the two sides can reach the "five-yard line" prior to Opening Day (Twitter link). WEEI.com's Rob Bradford spoke with a team source who feels that both Lester and Ortiz will have new contracts prior to Opening Day, though nothing is imminent with Lester.
12:31pm: The Red Sox are nearing a one-year contract extension believed to be in the neighborhood of $15MM with David Ortiz, according to Sean McAdam of Comcast SportsNet New England, and talks with lefty Jon Lester have intensified as well. Ortiz's contract could be completed before the end of this weekend, according to McAdam's source.
Though he's entering his age-38 season, Ortiz is fresh off yet another outstanding season at the plate in which he batted .300/.395/.564 with 30 homers in 600 plate appearances. Big Papi has been vocal about wanting to work out a one-year extension to remain with the club and has not shied away from telling reporters that he feels he's earned another significant payday as "The Man" in Boston's lineup at an age where many have been reduced to complementary roles. It's hard to argue that Ortiz's production isn't worthy of that salary, as he's been at least 34 percent better than a league-average hitter in each season from 2010-13, according to OPS+ and wRC+.
McAdam writes that the average annual value of an eventual Lester extension will be in the $20MM range, though the two sides have yet to agree to the number of years. After a disappointing 2012 season, the 30-year-old Lester enjoyed a nice rebound campaign when he turned in a 3.75 ERA with 7.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 45 percent ground-ball rate in 213 1/3 innings. He's said on multiple occasions this offseason that he would take less money to stay in Boston, at one point stating: "I want to be here 'til they rip this jersey off my back." He's currently slated to join James Shields, Max Scherzer and Justin Masterson atop next year's class of free agent pitchers, but that's looking less and less likely as Opening Day draws near.
A year ago, Jon Lester was coming off a poor season and his long-term future in Boston looked in doubt. Now, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes, Lester has rebuilt his career following a rebound season and another World Series ring, and it seems he's in position for a nine-figure contract from either the Red Sox or another club as a free agent next winter. Lester and the Sox have discussed an extension, and Lauber notes that the Sox (for all their promising young arms on the farm) have nobody who can replace Lester's 200 innings in 2015, so the club needs their star southpaw back.
Here's the latest from around the AL East...
- Yankees officials tell Joel Sherman of the New York Post that the Tigers haven't asked about Ichiro Suzuki in the wake of Andy Dirks' injury. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tells Sherman that his team is "not actively seeking a big move," though they haven't decided if they'll use an internal or external player to platoon with Rajai Davis in left.
- Ichiro, for his part, had "nothing to say about" the subject of whether or not he would want to play for another team that could offer him more regular playing time. “But as far as being part of [trade rumors], when I first came to New York, I knew it was something that happens here," Suzuki said. "You have to be emotionally ready and prepare yourself for it."
- Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli seems somewhat torn between his desire for more playing time and his desire to remain with the Yankees. "I’ve been here forever. I don’t have that answer right now because this is, I feel like, my house," Cervelli told reporters, including Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. "But if somebody wants me to go over there, I’ve got to make the adjustment. I told you guys many times that my dream is to be a starting catcher. Right now, my role is a backup. That’s what I’m playing for. But I’m never going to stop because an opportunity is going to come again." Cervelli has drawn interest from several teams (including the White Sox and Diamondbacks) as one of Yankees' backup catchers could be traded to bring infield help to the Bronx.
- The Blue Jays' lack of success in obtaining starting pitching this offseason leads Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi to re-evaluate the team's decisions to not tender a qualifying offer to Josh Johnson and to pass on a potential trade for Brett Anderson due to medical concerns.
- According to some Red Sox players, Stephen Drew regrets not accepting Boston's $14.1MM qualifying offer, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports. Drew has lingered on the free agent market in his search for a multiyear deal, and while the possibility of returning to the Sox as a veteran alternative for Xander Bogaerts or Will Middlebrooks seemed to have potential earlier this winter, the club seems to have moved on. Red Sox veterans, Abraham writes, no longer feel the team needs to re-sign Drew after seeing how Middlebrooks has conducted himself during Spring Training.
- No matter how well the Rays perform on the field or how much they spend on payroll, Cork Gaines of Rays Index notes that the team can't seem to top an average of 23,000 fans per game at Tropicana Field. Gaines speculates that even a World Series title could only bump the Rays over that 23K attendance threshold for a season or two, at most.
While Jeff Samardzija has been a chief subject of trade rumors this offseason, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told Jim Bowden and Casey Stern of MLB Network Radio on SiriuxXM (via Bowden's Twitter feed) that his preference would be to sign the right-hander to a long-term extension. Samardzija said the same during an appearance on the broadcast (audio link here), as "I've always stated this is where I wanna be...this organization stuck by me and has given me the opportunity to be a starter." Despite the rumors, there has "obviously been a mutual interest between the two parties, for sure...[which] kinda makes everything else just talking, which is what you want it to be."
Here's some more news from around the game...
- Johan Santana never considered retirement in the wake of his latest shoulder surgery, as the veteran southpaw told reporters (including MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli) that he didn't want to let his health dictate the end of his career. "I don't want to go out in the game like that. I want to go out of the game on my own terms, knowing this is going to be my last game, knowing this is going to be my last year," Santana said. The two-time Cy Young Award winner said he has "nothing to lose, [and] a lot to gain" from his incentive-heavy minor league deal with the Orioles.
- Jon Lester's cancer diagnosis in 2006 played a big part in his acceptance of his original multiyear deal with the Red Sox, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford reports. That contract will expire this offseason, and while Lester has no new news on the status of extension talks, he is hopeful a new deal will be settled soon.
- The Dodgers' surplus of pitching could force the team to make a tough cut in the form of right-hander Seth Rosin, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon writes. Rosin has pitched well thus far in Spring Training but L.A. might not have space for him on the roster, a situation that Saxon says could backfire like the team's cut of Kevin Gregg last spring. Rosin was selected off the Phillies' roster by the Mets in last December's Rule 5 draft and was then traded to the Dodgers, who now must keep Rosin on their Major League roster all season or else offer him back to Philadelphia for $25K.
- In a subscription-only piece for Baseball America, Matt Eddy and J.J. Cooper look at some of the offseason's key minor league free agent signings and some of the overall trends of this winter's minor league deals.
- Jim Leyland is happy in his position as special assistant to Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and has no interest in returning to the Pirates organization, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. “I really don't want to come back to the organization,” Leyland said. “Not because I don't love it, but (because) they've set their tempo now and they have their own people in place. They don't need somebody like me hanging around and, really, I don't need to do that....I'll retire a Tiger.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter wouldn't rule out the possibility of his team adding Ervin Santana to the fold when asked by Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Said Showalter: "I wouldn't say that and be completely sure that it's true." Kubatko has garnered that the Orioles were comfortable going into the three-year, $30MM range but weren't interested at Santana's asking price of four years, $50MM. More on the Orioles, who officially signed a different Santana (Johan) yesterday...
- Executive vice president Dan Duquette wouldn't commit to whether or not Johan Santana will be used as a starter or reliever if he's able to eventually take the mound, tweets Kubatko. Santana's contract contains incentives for games started, though reports yesterday indicated that they viewed him as a relief option as well. Duquette says Santana's ultimate role will be determined once the team sees how his velocity progresses. The two-time Cy Young winner topped out at 81 mph in his most recent workout, but he's very early in his throwing program at this point.
- The offer Jarrod Saltalamacchia received from the Red Sox this offseason was the lowest of the six or seven offers presented to him, the catcher told reporters, including the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo (Twitter link). The Boston Herald's Scott Lauber tweets that despite signing for a much lower average annual value, Saltalamacchia said he wouldn't have accepted a qualifying offer from the Red Sox, as he preferred multiyear security. The Globe's Matt Pepin has full quotes from Saltalamacchia, who said Boston's best offer was for two years, but "not a straight two-year deal," adding that there "were other things involved."
- Jon Lester told reporters, including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford, that there have been no recent developments in his contract talks with the Red Sox. Lester, who has made his desire to stay in Boston well known, said he prefer to let agents Seth and Sam Levinson of ACES and GM Ben Cherington worry about those matters.
- Andrew Astleford of FOX Sports Florida spoke with Rays non-roster invitee Erik Bedard about how he is adjusting to the new clubhouse and what it's like to come into camp looking for a job each year. Bedard says he didn't think back to his days with the Orioles when he faced them in his first Spring Training outing, because he doesn't know many of the players or coaches anymore. "Every team turns around every year. It's never the same. Nobody keeps the same guys anymore. They'll switch, trade, get released. Back in the day, everybody stayed."
Two years after their trade with the Mariners, the Yankees may finally emerge as the winners in their trade for Michael Pineda, David Waldstein of the New York Times writes. Jesus Montero's stock has fallen sharply in Seattle thanks to his poor hitting and conditioning, and now Pineda, who missed the entire 2012 season with shoulder trouble, has a chance to win a job in the Yankees' rotation. Pineda, who pitched sparingly in the minors last year, says he's finally healthy. "I want to be on the Yankees right away," he says. "I don’t want to go to Triple-A. But I don’t have control over the situation." Here are more notes from around baseball.
- Jon Lester is heading into his last year before free agency, and it seems likely that he and the Red Sox will agree to terms on an extension before that happens. In a podcast, Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal try to determine what a Lester extension might look like, and they arrive somewhere in the neighborhood of five years and $110MM guaranteed, perhaps with an option of some kind. The Red Sox likely will not want to guarantee more than five years for Lester, they suggest, and his recent workload (he threw 248 innings last year, including the postseason) could be a factor. Lester is already locked into a $13MM salary for 2014, so a five-year, $110MM extension would effectively add four years and $97MM.
- It's unclear how many innings the Rangers will get from their starting pitchers, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. Derek Holland is injured, Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison have back issues, Alexi Ogando hasn't proven he's durable, and Martin Perez is only 22. The Rangers could try to compensate by getting more innings out of their relievers. They could also try to make up for Holland's absence by signing Joe Saunders, who recently worked out for them. Tommy Hanson, Colby Lewis, Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Michael Kirkman could also be candidates to start.
- Vanderbilt pitcher Tyler Beede now looks like a clear top-five draft pick, ESPN's Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Law notes that on Friday night, Beede demonstrated good stuff and solid command, with 92-95 MPH velocity and a strong changeup. Law writes that teams should consider taking Beede beginning with the No. 3 overall pick, with only NC State's Carlos Rodon and high school arm Tyler Kolek obviously representing better picks at this point.
- A.J. Burnett, who made his 2014 spring debut on Sunday, helps clarify the Phillies' rotation, Matt Gelb of the Inquirer writes. As Ryan Lawrence of the Daily News noted earlier today, the back of the Phillies' rotation is uncertain -- Cole Hamels, Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin are all dealing with injuries, and it's not clear what they have in Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Burnett gives the Phillies a reliable option to add to Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick.
The Brewers and Pirates have scouts watching the Red Sox, with a specific focus on Mike Carp, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes in his weekly Sunday column. While it's still unknown whether Carp can handle an everyday job, he wouldn't have to fill that role in Pittsburgh, as the Bucs have been looking for a left-handed hitting platoon partner for first baseman Gaby Sanchez. Carp has received a lot of trade buzz this offseason though Boston was known to be asking for a lot in return.
Here's some more from Cafardo's latest piece...
- Sam and Seth Levinson of the ACES agency "are gaining the reputation of persuading clients to take under-market-value contracts if they’re happy where they are," which is why there is a feeling amongst general managers that Jon Lester, an ACES client, will sign an extension with the Red Sox. “If you’re a team with a big-ticket guy out there, they are the agents you want to be dealing with right now,” said one National League GM. “The teams love it. You can get something done with them." This past summer, ACES client Dustin Pedroia signed an eight-year, $110MM extension with the Red Sox that was perceived as a team-friendly deal (especially given what Robinson Cano was able to find on the open market this offseason), though it's worth noting that the Levinsons kept Pedroia fully informed of his market value and the second baseman just really wanted to stay in Boston. Lester, for his part, has also said he'd be willing to take a discount to remain with the Sox.
- Cafardo speaks to Orioles manager Buck Showalter about the team's recent signings of Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez and how the club weighed the value of the draft picks they'd have to surrender to sign the qualifying offer-rejecting free agents. Also, Showalter doesn't think money will be an obstacle in retaining key players over the long term. “I feel confident with Peter [Angelos] that when we come to him and say this is someone we want to hold on to, he’s going to find a way to do it,” said Showalter. “I don’t think our guys want to go anywhere."
- Baltimore's hiring of Dave Wallace as pitching coach "may be the best acquisition we’ve made this offseason," Showalter said. “He’s really simplified things for us. Sometimes we’re so mechanics-driven in this business.”
- "Don't believe" the Blue Jays when they say they aren't interested in Ervin Santana, Cafardo writes. He also thinks the Orioles could still have an eye on Santana even after the Jimenez signing.
- Oliver Perez seemed to be close to a new contract two weeks ago when he was weighing offers from four teams, but "nothing has transpired" since then, Cafardo writes. He opines that the Nationals and Yankees are teams who could use Perez's lefty presence in their bullpens.
A long-term agreement between Mike Trout and the Angels would carry upside and risk for both player and club, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes. Agent Paul Cohen, whose clients include Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki, tells DiGiovanna he's generally in favor of such deals. "Our view is you never turn down your first fortune, especially if you can keep your free agent years intact at age 29 or 30," Cohen comments. However, Scott Boras chimes in to argue that such deals often benefit teams. Boras discloses that the Indians attempted to extend his client Shin-Soo Choo with a deal in the $27MM-$42MM range. Choo, of course, waited and cashed in this offseason with a seven-year, $130MM free agent deal with the Rangers. Here are more notes from around the majors:
- Continuing our extension theme, the Red Sox and Jon Lester's representatives have had at least two conversations about a long-term deal, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe tweets.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman's suggestion earlier this week that the Orioles' 2012 success was a fluke has rankled some in Baltimore, but the club has largely been quiet on the matter, writes Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun.
- Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press Sports says there are parallels to be drawn between Dave Dombrowski's administration of the Tigers and John Schuerholz's tenure running the Braves.
Jon Lester is due to become a free agent after the season, but both he and the Red Sox hope an extension is in the works, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. And with Lester declaring that "I don't like change" and Red Sox brass declaring their strong interest in keeping him, Heyman writes, the odds are that an extension will get done. The Red Sox picked up their $13MM club option on Lester for 2014, and Lester would surely get a hefty raise on that total in an extension. Despite both parties' interest in completing a deal, however, it's not a given that a contract will get done before spring training ends. "I'd like to get it done down here," Lester says. "But it's going to be a tedious process." Yesterday, Lester's agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, arrived in Red Sox camp, although the reasons are unclear.
In negotiations between Lester and the Red Sox, an obvious starting point would be Homer Bailey's recent contract with the Reds. Like Lester, Bailey was due to become a free agent following the 2014 season. The two were fairly similar in value in 2013. Lester, at 30, is two years older than Bailey, but likely would receive somewhat more per year due to his better career performance. Bailey received six years and $105MM, with a mutual option for 2020.