December 10, 2014

Jon Lester Signs With Cubs

Ian Browne,
The Red Sox were in the Jon Lester sweepstakes until the very end, but they finished second to the Cubs.

The lefty agreed to a six-year, $155 million contract Tuesday that will reunite him with Theo Epstein in Chicago, has confirmed.

Boston's last offer to Lester was for six years at $135 million, according to a source. ...

With Lester now off the table, the Red Sox could pursue one of the other two premier pitching free agents on the market -- right-handers Max Scherzer and James Shields.

However, Scherzer's final price tag could wind up higher than Lester's. ...

Red Sox owner John Henry had flown to Lester's Atlanta home twice in recent weeks to meet with him.
Gordon Edes, ESPNBoston:
General manager Ben Cherington's pledge to rebuild the starting rotation just became exponentially more difficult as the Red Sox were outbid by former Larry Lucchino protege Theo Epstein for the services of Lester, whom they had clearly and repeatedly identified as their top pitching target this winter. ...

Shadowing whatever moves Cherington makes will be the perception that the Sox badly mishandled negotiations with Lester, an integral part of two World Series champions and a homegrown talent who ranked very high among the team's all-time best left-handers. ...

No Sox officials responded to requests for comment Tuesday night, but soon enough they will be called into account. They will be hard-pressed to prove that they can build a pitching staff without Lester that will be as good as one they could have had with him.


Dr. Jeff said...

Lester said in an interview at the end of the season that it wasn't all about the money. Then he takes an extra 20 million to go to Chicago?

Maxwell Horse said...

I think the contract turned out to be more than just an extra 20. (The potential seventh year adds on an additional 15 to that? Possibly more. I wasn't quite clear on those details.)

I'm cutting Lester a break here. I don't think him signing for the Cubs necessarily negates his earlier statements. Obviously money influenced his decision to a big degree, but that doesn't mean it was the only factor. Also, a hometown discount doesn't necessarily mean leaving a potential extra 35 million on the table. That's a ton. (It's also easier to care more about money when most of the incentive of taking a hometown discount--the safety net that signing in early 2014 would've provided--is no longer a factor.)

It's impossible to avoid the fact that the Sox front office made some pretty bone-headed decisions over the past year regarding the pitching staff. They could've come into 2015 with a one and a two (the cost-controlled Lackey) and now they have neither. In their current situation, they are now arguably going to have to give up more than they would've in signing Lester (when you factor in prospects they might have to deal) and possibly get less in terms of talent with the risks being similar. (And I mention Lackey because I suspect he would've been more inclined to stick around had Lester been signed for 2015.) Now they might have to pay the same amount to a lesser pitcher than they would've paid to Lester if they'd simply negotiated with him seriously in the spring.

Some hosts on WEEI (I know, I know) actually have made some good points on this. For whatever reason, when someone becomes familiar to you, you tend to take them for granted. [In my opinion this has happened insanely with David Ortiz with some people. ("No other DH makes as much as he does!").]

And I think to some degree it's happened with Lester. Both in terms of the Sox's initial low-ball offer to him, but also in regards to the now apparently-popular opinion by some fans of "good riddance." The view seems to be that Lester is not an "ace" akin to 2001-era Pedro or Roger Clemens at his peak (as if those comps were relevant to the 2014 market) and so he's simply not worth a huge contract.

And it's fine to have that opinion. But as Tim Benz said, it's kind of odd how "selective" such a viewpoint is. Not dancing with Lester was apparently a sign of admirable frugality. But then where was such frugality when the Sox gave a pretty sizeable contract to a complete wild card like Rusney Castillo? What about Panda and Hanley? Shouldn't those signings have sparked outrage from those same fans who are glad not to sign Lester? If the Lester contract was a "bullet dodged," then what about the bullets that the Sox are now *forced* to take so that we can have a semi-decent pitching rotation in 2015?

Don't get me wrong. I am not a person that acts like this front office "just cares about selling bricks and doesn't care about winning." Whatever their motivations are--whether it be pure love of baseball, or simply because they know that winning is profitable--they clearly care about winning. I just feel like sometimes, despite their best intentions, they mess up. And this was one of those times.

Michael said...

The Giants' offer was reportedly for 165M or something, so he didn't actually go to the highest bidder. If anything, and if the Sox' offer really was 20M lower than the Cubs', I'm impressed that it was ever this close.
Ultimately I think he really wants to make history in Chicago, in a way that's not possible anymore in Boston.

laura k said...

I'm sorry we won't have Lester, but this

They will be hard-pressed to prove that they can build a pitching staff without Lester that will be as good as one they could have had with him.

is standard fare every time a team loses a high-profile player. Straight out of Sportswriting for Dummies.

Somehow other teams have managed to be competitive without Jon Lester and the Red Sox will manage, too.