Jon Lester’s time as a free agent appears to be nearing its end, as reports indicate that the starting pitcher will soon decide on his destination. The Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox are all said to be in the running to sign, perhaps, the top MLB player available.
Even with Max Scherzer unsigned, who won the 2013 American League Cy Young award, Lester has proven to be the hottest commodity of the 2014-2015 MLB offseason. Lester reportedly has offers in the range of six years and $150 million, and one team might be willing to give him a seven-year contract worth $175 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
Rosenthal reported on Monday that the Cubs and Giants were Lester’s top two choices. Chicago is looking to improve a rotation ERA that ranked 13th in the National League last season, and San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean has said that signing Lester is the team’s top priority.
The pitcher’s agent, Seth Levinson, has dismissed the idea that the Red Sox are out of the running. Boston owner John Henry met with Lester in Atlanta on Friday, according to weei.com. The team offered him a four-year deal worth $70 million, prior to the start of the 2014 season.
Some executives believe the Dodgers are simply looking to drive up the price on Lester, via Joel Sherman of the New York Post, while others think general manger Andrew Friedman has serious interest in adding the starter. Adding Lester to a rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke could undoubtedly give L.A. the No.1 staff in baseball. Greinke can opt out of his contract after the 2015 season.
Lester, 30, might be coming off his best year as a pro. In a season that saw him get sent from Boston to the Oakland Athletics at the trade deadline, Lester set career-highs in ERA (2.46) and WHIP (1.10), ranking fourth and seventh, respectively, in the AL. The left-hander has started at least 30 games in every year since 2008, winning at least 10 games and posting an ERA of 3.75 in all but one season.
Lester’s impending decision will have far-reaching ramifications on the remaining free agents. Most of the top position players have signed with teams, as the likes of Hanley Ramirez, Russell Martin, Pablo Sandoval and Nelson Cruz have found new homes, but the same can’t be said for the best free-agent pitchers. Relievers Andrew Miller and David Robertson have agreed to new contracts, but the top starters aren’t likely to sign until Lester sets the market.
There had been rumors this offseason that the New York Yankees could make a play for Lester, but they don’t appear to be in the running.