<span class="vcard">Matthew Pouliot</span>

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Oakland Athletics

Jon Lester goes to Cubs for $155 million over six years

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As FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal first reported, Jon Lester has opted to join the Cubs. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan confirms that it’s a six-year, $155 million deal. The Red Sox were offering $135 million for six years.

Lester also had offers from the Giants and Dodgers before reportedly narrowing to two finalists earlier Tuesday. According to Passan, the Giants were offering six years and $150 million, with seven years and $168 million also possibly in play.

That the Red Sox were still in the process so late despite the lesser offer suggests that Lester would have returned to Boston all things being equal and that he nearly did anyway. Still, there had to be some divided loyalties, given former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein’s presence in the Cubs front office and the fact that Boston’s earlier offers prior to him becoming a free agent were very nearly insulting.

Chicago likely is a better situation for Lester, given that the club is oozing with young talent, and the Cubs clearly wanted him more. He’ll join an improved rotation also set to include Jason Hammel, Jake Arrieta and probably Kyle Hendricks. The Cubs could acquire another starter or leave the fifth spot open for Tsuyoshi Wada, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Dan Straily, Felix Doubront or Jacob Turner.

One other interesting call is whether the Cubs will now bring in David Ross, who worked so well with Lester in Boston. The Red Sox were expected to re-sign Ross if Lester came back, and he made plenty of sense for the Cubs a day ago. Now, though, the Cubs have Miguel Montero, freshly acquired from the Diamondbacks, as their new starting catcher, and last year’s starter, Welington Castillo, still on the roster. The Cubs could trade Castillo and open up a spot for Ross, but using a personal catcher for Lester would negate some of Montero’s offensive value. Ideally, the Cubs would platoon the lefty swinging Montero and Castillo or another right-handed catcher based on who their facing. If Lester has a personal catcher, that advantage would be lost.

The Red Sox will now move on to plan B, though whether that includes a run at Max Scherzer or James Shields is unclear. They have no chance of getting Scherzer without a major upgrade on what they were offering Lester. They might instead explore trades for Jordan Zimmermann and Johnny Cueto. Cole Hamels is a frequent topic of conversation, but nothing is going to happen there unless Ruben Amaro lowers his asking price.

Boston will also look to the next tier of starters in trades and free agency. Rosenthal reported that the Red Sox and Marlins were both pursuing Arizona’s Wade Miley. Other free agents of interest to Boston could include Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana.

 

A’s to get Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt from White Sox for Jeff Samardzija

Marcus Semien
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While the deal isn’t expected to be announced until Tuesday, the Athletics are acquiring Jeff Samardzija from the White Sox, CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported. CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes later confirmed the deals.

The A’s will get three players in return. Two of them are infielder Marcus Semien and right-hander Chris Bassitt, says the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser.

If the third player is another solid prospect, it would seem to be a better trade for the A’s than either the Josh Donaldson deal with the Blue Jays or the Brandon Moss trade with the Indians. Semien can step right in at shortstop for Oakland, and while he won’t show exceptional range, he should be adequate defensively and a solid bat. Ideally, he’ll be a more durable version of Jed Lowrie, and if Oakland’s shortstop prospects develop as hoped, Semien can be moved to second or third down the line.

Bassitt, a 16th-round find out of the University of Akron in 2011, emerged as a legitimate rotation candidate last year after starting his minor league career as a reliever. He still might wind up as a setup man for the long haul, but he deserves a longer look at the back of the rotation first.

It’s not an overwhelming return, but considering that Samardzija has just one year until free agency, the A’s didn’t do badly here. Of course, neither did the White Sox. While Semien projects as a nice player, the middle infield is one area where the White Sox system is quite strong. Samardzija will slot in between lefties Chris Sale and Jose Quintana in the White Sox rotation, giving them a top three to be reckoned with.

2014 Non-tender Tracker

Kris Medlen AP
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We’ll be compiling the non-tenders as they come in prior to Tuesday’s midnight deadline. These players immediately become free agents.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Angels – INF Gordon Beckham, RP Yoslan Herrera, SP Wade LeBlanc

Astros – none

Athletics – 1B-OF Kyle Blanks, OF Andrew Brown

Blue Jays – OF Andy Dirks, OF John Mayberry Jr., 1B Justin Smoak

Indians – none

Mariners – INF Carlos Rivero

Orioles – none

Rangers – RP Michael Kirkman, RP Alexi Ogando, INF Adam Rosales

Rays – none

Red Sox – 1B-3B Juan Francisco

Royals – RP Francisley Bueno

Tigers – none

Twins – none

White Sox – SP Scott Carroll, RP Scott Snodgress

Yankees – SP Jose Campos, OF Slade Heathcott, RP David Huff

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Braves – SP Brandon Beachy, SP Kris Medlen, SP Gus Schlosser

Brewers – none

Cardinals – INF Daniel Descalso

Cubs – C John Baker, RP Wesley Wright

Diamondbacks – none

Dodgers – none

Giants – none

Marlins – none

Mets – OF Eric Young Jr.

Nationals – none

Padres – SS Everth Cabrera

Phillies – none

Pirates – 1B Gaby Sanchez, RP Chaz Roe

Reds – RP Logan Ondrusek, RP Curtis Partch

Rockies – RP Kraig Sitton

Report: Blue Jays, Astros discuss Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler
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According to FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi, the Blue Jays and Astros have had discussions regarding center fielder Dexter Fowler, who is a year away from free agency.

One year after acquiring him from the Rockies, the Astros see Fowler as expendable with both George Springer and Jake Marisnick capable of playing center field. Fowler was the team’s second-highest paid player last year, receiving $7.35 million in the second year of a two-year deal he signed with Colorado. He’s due about $9 million in arbitration this winter.

Fowler hit well in his first year outside of Colorado, coming in at .276/.375/.399 in 434 at-bats. However, he was limited to 116 games by an intercostal strain. He’s yet to play more than 143 games as a major leaguer, and the numbers have his defense getting worse each year. If he were to stay in Houston, it’d probably be for the best if he were moved to a corner.

The Jays need both a left fielder and a center fielder with Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus having become free agents. They do have prospect Dalton Pompey as a center field option and a potentially adequate and cheap left-field platoon in Andy Dirks and John Mayberry Jr. Still, ideally, they would upgrade one of those spots, and the Astros probably wouldn’t need a whole lot in return to move on from Fowler.

12:20 a.m. EST update: The Jays non-tendered both Dirks and Mayberry prior to Tuesday’s midnight deadline, which would certainly suggest they’re confident in their ability to bring in a left-field upgrade.

Remembering those left off the Hall of Fame ballot

Kevin Millar
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I’d say the 17 new players added to this year’s Hall of Fame ballot were 10 too many. With so many worthy candidates already backlogged, adding such a large crowd serves no real purpose and might actually damage the process when someone such as Eddie Guardado gets a token vote, as Jacque Jones did last year (obviously, the Minnesota nominating committee is very strong). Once upon a time, the token votes were harmless. These days, they might get the 10th spot on someone’s ballot over a much more worthy player.

This year’s ballot has seven newcomers worthy of actual Hall of Fame debate: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, Carlos Delgado and Brian Giles. The last four are never getting in, but they all have Hall of Fame-like qualities. Guardado and Aaron Boone do not, yet they were included on the ballot anyway, along with Rich Aurilia, Tony Clark, Jermaine Dye, Darin Erstad, Cliff Floyd, Tom Gordon, Troy Percival and Jason Schmidt.

But enough about them. Let’s mention some of the others who played their final seasons in 2009 but were left off the ballot, even though they were just as worthy as others included. First, though, a nod to Brandon Webb. I’m writing this for the purposes of mentioning those left off the ballot, whereas Webb was completely ineligible, having played only seven years (10 years is required). He is, however, one of the finest players ever to be ineligible for the Hall of Fame. He won a Cy Young and finished second twice before shoulder problems wrecked his career, leaving him with an 87-62 record and a 3.27 ERA.

So, who got left off?

Jarrod Washburn: The lefty had his best season during the Angels’ championship campaign in 2002, going 18-6 with a 3.15 ERA and finishing fourth in the AL Cy Young balloting. Capped his career with a 107-109 record and a 4.10 ERA that doesn’t sound all that impressive, but actually comes out to a 108 ERA+ in an offense-heavy era. That’s good for 28 WAR, the highest mark of those left off the ballot (the lows to be included on the ballot were Clark at 12.5, Guardado at 13.3 and Boone at 13.5).

Mark Loretta: Loretta played 15 years, mostly as a second baseman and shortstop, and finished with a higher OPS than Boone, who played 12 years as a third baseman. He also went to two All-Star Games to Boone’s one. But he didn’t have a backer in the room when it came to putting together the ballot. Loretta had his best season in 2004, hitting .335/.391/.495 with 16 HR and 76 RBI to finish ninth in the NL MVP balloting. Overall, he hit .295/.360/.395 in 5,812 at-bats.

Kelvim Escobar: That Escobar has been attempting comebacks every year probably didn’t help his chances of getting included. He was a fine pitcher in his 11 seasons, though, winning as many as 18 games and once saving 38. He had his best season in 2007, going 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA for the Angels, then made just one more major league appearance in his career, that coming in 2009. Overall, he was 101-91 with a 4.15 ERA and a 112 ERA+.

Kevin Millar: Unfortunately, Millar’s best years came in obscurity in Florida, and he was more famous than good during the second half of his career (he was also probably good enough to play in the majors at least a year before the Marlins called him up; he had two at-bats prior to his age-27 season). Still, as visible as he’s been, it was surprising to see him left off, especially when he’s at least as qualified as Boone or Clark. Millar hit .274/.358/.452 with 170 homers in 4,688 career at-bats. Clark hit .262/.339/.485 with 251 homers in 4,532 at-bats. Boone hit .263/.326/.425 with 126 homers in 3,871 at-bats.

Paul Byrd: The leading winner left off the ballot, Byrd finished his career 109-96 with a 4.41 ERA and a 103 ERA+. He made an All-Star team with the Phillies in 2009 and won 17 games for a horrible Royals team in 2002, leading the league with seven complete games that year. He then missed all of 2003. In the latter half of his career, he was among the game’s stingiest when it came to issuing walks, finishing in the top five in the AL in walk rates four times.