Cardinals reportedly joining pursuit of Jon Lester

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Might the Cardinals be a darkhorse in the Jon Lester sweepstakes? Jim Bowden of ESPN and SiriusXM says they are “in pursuit,” citing a club source.

St. Louis just unloaded some of its rotation depth on Monday afternoon, acquiring outfielder Jason Heyward and relief pitcher Jordan Walden from the Braves for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. That still leaves the Cardinals with six legitimate starters for 2015 between Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Carlos Martinez, and Marco Gonzales, but Wainwright needed elbow surgery in late October and Wacha battled shoulder issues for much of the 2014 season. So maybe there’s something to this.

Martinez and Gonzales could both begin 2015 in relief roles if Lester is brought in.

Lester is also drawing serious interest from the Red Sox, Cubs, and Braves. The 30-year-old southpaw had a 2.46 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 220/48 K/BB ratio in 219 2/3 innings this season between Boston and Oakland.

Astros talking to Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole about extensions

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It’s extension season and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros — who already agreed to an extension with Alex Bregman — are discussing contract extensions with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.

Funny thing about Verlander, by the way: when he got his current $180 million deal, most people fell into the “oh, there’s an overpay!” column. What’s more, this past winter, when everyone was talking about how bad it is to give guys big long term deals, Verlander’s name was notably absent in the conversation despite the fact that his deal has turned out to be quite good. I suppose that says something about how good the anti-long-term deal folks are at cherrypicking.

That being said, Rosenthal says “it would be an upset” if either Verlander or Cole signed extensions. I can see that. Verlander is locked up this year and has a vesting option for 2020, and a lot can happen in a year or two. Cole is a Scott Boras client and Boras clients tend to hit the market rather than sign extensions. Perhaps their former teammate, Dallas Keuchel‘s, terrible experience on the free agent market this winter will alter that calculus. Hard to say.