Jon Lester Rumors
Red Sox lefty Jon Lester and Rangers reliever Mike Adams have changed agencies, following agent Josh Yates to ACES. Both pitchers had formerly been represented by SFX Baseball. SFX negotiated Lester's then-precedent-setting five-year, $30MM deal three years ago.
It's common for players to follow their agents, and Yates is on his third agency, having been let go by CSMG (now known as Octagon) in '07. An SFX spokesperson said that Yates decided to leave the company and they wish him well. SFX will still collect the fees on Lester's current contract, which runs through 2014 if a club option is exercised. Adams has emerged as one of the game's top setup men and is in line for a multiyear free agent deal after the season.
Also, correcting an earlier tweet from me, the Braves' Randall Delgado remains with SFX.
Curtis Granderson added to his MVP-caliber season with home run number 32 today and he now has a .276/.367/.584 line. He'll receive MVP consideration after the season, along with division rivals including Jose Bautista, Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ben Zobrist. Here's the latest on the AL East...
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun asks a hypothetical question of Orioles fans: would you trade Brian Roberts for Adam Dunn? The deal, by the way, has not been been discussed by either side as far as Connolly has heard.
- Kirk Minihane of WEEI.com says Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw are two of the only pitchers he'd trade straight up for Red Sox starter Jon Lester, considering the left-hander's age (27) and contract status (under team control through 2014).
- The Yankees thought about returning Ivan Nova to the minors last week, but GM Brian Cashman ultimately decided that the right-hander gives the Yankees a better chance to win than any alternative, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney.
If a team signs a pitcher to an extension and he becomes an Opening Day starter, the club has an indication that the deal is going well. It’s too early on in the extensions for Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo and Ricky Romero to call them successes or failures, because none of the extensions expire before 2013. But all three starters will pitch this Opening Day, a sign that the deals are going well for the teams so far.
The three extensions, signed within 18 months of one another between March, 2009 and August, 2010, are all for five years with a club option for a sixth year and are all valued within the narrow $30-30.1MM range.
The pitchers signed similar extensions because they were on statistically similar career paths before finalizing the deals. And fortunately for the Red Sox, Brewers and Blue Jays, the pitchers have performed just as well - maybe even better - since accepting their clubs’ multi-million dollar offers.
Lester, the first to sign, has been one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game since 2009 (WAR says Cliff Lee is the only lefty who pitched better in ’09-’10). In 411 1/3 innings (64 starts) since signing, Lester has posted a 3.33 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.
Gallardo, the lone right-hander in the group, signed last April, a year after the Red Sox locked Lester up. Since the ink dried on his deal with Milwaukee, Gallardo (pictured) has logged 178 innings (30 starts) and posted a 3.84 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9.
Romero broke out last year, posting a 3.73 ERA in 210 innings. That prompted the Blue Jays to lock him up in August, so he has made just nine starts since signing his deal. The 26-year-old posted respectable numbers over the final month and a half of the season: a 4.26 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9.
The trio has stayed healthy and effective so far, but with three to five years remaining on the deals, there’s ample time for the extensions to backfire. All three teams were willing to take that risk when they offered tens of millions to the promising pitchers and, at least so far, the investments have paid off.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
Some news from Boston, all courtesy of WEEI.com's Alex Speier...
- In a radio interview with WEEI's The Big Show today (Speier has the transcript), Red Sox principal owner John Henry said he was fined $500K by Major League Baseball in 2009 for comments he made to the Boston Globe about baseball's revenue-sharing system. "The large markets are not allowed to give their opinions," Henry said today.
- The Sox may be able to afford a new addition at the trade deadline or during the season. "We might have a little space, but we don’t have a lot of space," Henry said. "This is a big payroll."
- Henry thinks Terry Francona and Theo Epstein will remain with the team for years to come, but didn't want to commit to exactly how long. "[Francona] has a tough job everyday over those seven months, trying to deal with a lot of pressure," Henry said. "Same issue with our general manager. Will our general manager agree to do this for another five, 10 years? These are tough, tough jobs."
- The extensive renovations done on Fenway Park will ensure the stadium can last for another 50 years, Henry predicts.
- In a separate piece, Speier looks at how Jon Lester has developed into "arguably the most important player on the team" for Boston.
When MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith mentioned Clay Buchholz as an extension candidate last September, Ben noted that Buchholz's rotation mate Jon Lester was a close comparable. Buchholz himself apparently agrees with the comparison, as he told WEEI.com's Alex Speier that he would appreciate a multiyear deal akin to the five-year, $30MM pact that Lester signed with the Red Sox before the 2009 season, or the similar extensions signed by Ricky Romero in Toronto and Yovani Gallardo in Milwaukee.
“I think that would definitely be a base model for it — numbers-wise, security reasons, I think every player with less than three years of service time, that’s what they strive for,” said Buchholz. “I’m not saying I’m as good as Lester or I deserve what he got, but just from the other guys who signed their deal in the past year or so with the same service, I think that’s definitely a good starting point if there ever was one.”
The Sox haven't approached Buchholz about an extension this winter, and if the team waits until sometime during or after the 2011 season to explore a long-term deal, another strong season from Buchholz could make his extension more expensive than the deals signed by Lester, Gallardo or Romero. There's no question Boston can afford to extend the right-hander, but doing so sooner rather than later might save the team an extra $5-10MM on a contract. Buchholz will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season.
Here's the latest from Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci....
- Though the Angels won their arbitration hearing with Jered Weaver, Verducci thinks the fact that the case went all the way to a hearing is "a bad sign" for Weaver's future with the Halos. It certainly doesn't help refute the purported hard feelings between the Angels and Weaver's agent Scott Boras.
- Verducci compares the contracts and basic performance stats of Weaver, Chad Billingsley, Jon Lester and Cole Hamels. Verducci guesses Boston saved at least $15MM by signing Lester to a multiyear deal before the 2009 season.
- Just three players (Todd Helton, Raul Ibanez, and Ichiro) aged 36 years old or older managed to play 100 games in the field last season and reach the league average OPS of .728, Verducci writes. This pronounced decline rate for older players is the reason the Cardinals are hesitant to pay Albert Pujols a $30MM annual salary into his late thirties.
- The Rangers are still "the best fit" for Michael Young. Verducci points out that Young should still be able to find lots of playing time with Texas, if not necessarily an everyday spot in the lineup. Given how thin the trade market for Young appears to be, Young also may not have a choice but to remain in Texas.
Technically, the Blue Jays entered uncharted territory today. They committed more money ($30.1MM) to Ricky Romero than any team has ever committed to a pitcher with less than two years of service time. But in reality, the extension is all about precedent.
“It’s all about comparables and comparable deals and what else has been done,” Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said this evening, comparing Romero to Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester and Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo.
Both Lester ($30MM) and Gallardo ($30.1MM) signed deals worth virtually the same amount as Romero’s. The three extensions cover the exact same five seasons (one year of pre-arbitration, three arbitration seasons and one free agent season) and all include $13MM team options for the players’ second free agent years. It would be hard to construct three more similar contracts.
And it would be hard to find three more similar pitchers. If you compare Romero to Lester and Gallardo at the time they signed their respective contracts, you notice striking similarities. All three had made between 52 and 59 starts, posted ERAs between 3.57 and 3.94, allowed between 28 and 33 homers and walked between 134 and 141 batters. All three were selected within the first two rounds of the amateur draft and all three were 24 or 25 when they agreed to their respective deals.
There are differences, of course. Gallardo is right-handed and walks and strikes out more batters than the two lefties. Lester and Gallardo missed time early in their careers, whereas Romero has been fully healthy. Anthopoulos realizes the inherent risk of committing tens of millions to a pitcher, but says Romero has the stuff to improve over the course of the deal.
“You always have concerns when you make a commitment,” Anthopoulos said. “What the reaction might be on the part of the player, but we see a guy like Ricky continuing to improve. We think he’s going to be an innings eater, we think he’s going to be a horse [and] we think he’s going to continue to evolve.”
There's no question that Lester and Gallardo have continued evolving since signing their contracts. Lester has improved his strikeout rate since signing his extension two offseasons ago. And Gallardo, who signed his contract this April, leads the National League in strikeout rate and is on pace to post the lowest full-season ERA of his career. The Blue Jays hope and believe Romero will develop, but they won’t be disappointed if he keeps pitching the way he has.
“Even if there wasn’t much improvement or any at all,” Anthopoulos said. “We think what he’s doing right now [is good enough]. He’s had a tremendous year for us.”
The deal is designed to save the Blue Jays money in arbitration and keep Romero in Toronto for what the Jays expect to be his prime years. Even though Romero wasn’t going to hit the open market until four winters from now, the contract is all about market value. If Romero pitches like Gallardo and Lester, the deal will be a win and if he misses extended periods of time with injuries it will be a loss. Until then, it’s neither an overpay nor a discount.
Jon Lester told Alex Speier of WEEI.com that he hopes to sign an extension with the Red Sox at some point. The Red Sox already extended Lester once and control his rights through 2014, at which point the left-hander wants to re-sign in Boston.
“Hopefully I’ll stay here, and hopefully we’ll be able to do it,” Lester said. “That’s a couple years away, but it’s something I’ve always thought about, and hopefully it’s something we can get done at some point.”
Clay Buchholz said in May that he would like to sign long-term with the Red Sox, but he hasn’t approached the club about a deal, and the Red Sox haven’t brought the subject up either. Buchholz isn’t arbitration-eligible until after 2011 or free agent-eligible until after 2014, so he says he isn’t worried about his long-term future yet.
“I think time will take care of all that stuff,” said Buchholz. “I’m going to focus on playing.”
Some links for Friday night...
- MLB.com's Steve Gilbert tweets that the Diamondbacks and Edwin Jackson have made no progress towards reaching an agreement to avoid arbitration. A hearing is set for February 17th.
- Chuck Finder of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette passes along a report from the independent St. Paul Saints that says that the Pirates have signed 25-year-old outfielder Anthony Norman to a minor league deal.
- Several executives told Morosi that they expect Jermaine Dye to sign with an AL club, though no one's sure which one.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier says that Jon Lester's contract is one of the biggest bargains in baseball when you look at the deals Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander just received. Lester signed a five-year deal last March that guaranteed him at least $30MM.
- Bill Shaikin of The Los Angeles Times wonders if 2010 could be the final year of Manny Ramirez's career. If so, he has a chance to be just the eighth player in history to retire with a career OPS over 1.000.
- ESPN's Keith Law says that the Orlando Hudson signing is a major upgrade for the Twins, likely enough to make them preseason favorites in the AL Central.
- Meanwhile, Law thinks it's too risky for the Diamondbacks to give Mark Reynolds a multi-year contract right now. The two-sides have been discussing such a deal recently.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com says the Mets are more likely to sign a pitcher rather than another catcher this month.
- Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle has some quotes from Travis Buck regarding his standing with the A's following all of their outfield additions, and adds that the team has found some interest in Dana Eveland and Gregorio Petit, both of whom were recently designated for assignment.
5:22pm: WEEI Alex Speier has the year-by-year breakdown of Lester's deal. He'll be paid pretty well over the next five years.
11:08am: Gary Dzen of Boston.com reports the Red Sox have announced the five-year deal. No details were given.
10:41am: Ron Borges of the Boston Herald reports the Red Sox and Jon Lester are expected to announce the signing of his $30MM extension this morning. The extension is expected to include a $13MM club option for 2014.
The cat was out of the bag last Sunday when Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan had the scoop.