Jon Lester “nearing finish line,” could make decision tonight

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UPDATE: The fun continues. According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, an MLB executive with connections to one team involved in the bidding believes that Lester is leaning toward the Giants.

8:01 p.m. ET: David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com was told by two “very good MLB sources” that they believe the Cubs are in the lead for Lester.

6:43 p.m. ET: It looks like we could be in for an interesting night, as ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent left-hander Jon Lester is nearing the finish line and will soon have final offers to choose from. He could make his decision tonight.

Olney paints a slightly different picture than Rob Bradford of WEEI.com in Boston, who hears that Lester’s agents aren’t prepared to present their client with final offers. He even writes that there’s a “strong possibility” that the southpaw won’t make his decision until Wednesday morning. For now, we wait.

The main clubs mentioned for Lester are the Red Sox, Cubs, Giants, and Dodgers. Giants assistant general manager Bobby Evans said on Sirius XM earlier today that he thought his club was “in the back seat” for Lester and pegged the Cubs and Red Sox as the favorites, but GM Brian Sabean later said that he believes they are still “very much” in the mix. Don’t worry, I’m confused too.

When it’s all said and done, Lester is likely to receive a deal north of $150 million, potentially as part of a seven-year contract. His signing is expected to have a domino effect on the starting pitcher market.

Jim Crane thought the heat over sign-stealing would blow over by spring training

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The Astros’ sign-stealing story broke in November, a steady drumbeat of coverage of it lasted through December and into January, when Rob Manfred’s report came out about it. The report was damning and, in its wake, Houston’s manager and general manger were both suspended and then fired.

After that a steady stream of media reports came out which not only made the whole affair seem even worse than Manfred’s report suggested, but which also suggested that, on some level, Major League Baseball had bungled it all and it was even worse than it had first seemed.

Rather than Manfred and the Astros putting this all behind them, the story grew. As it grew, both the Red Sox and Mets fired their managers and, in a few isolated media appearances, Astros’ players seemed ill-prepared for questions on it all. Once spring training began the Astros made even worse public appearances and, for the past week and change, each day has given us a new player or three angrily speaking out about how mad they are at the Astros and how poorly they’ve handled all of this.

Why have they handled it so poorly? As always, look to poor leadership:

Guess not.

In other news, Crane was — and I am not making this up — recently named the Houston Sports Executive of the Year. An award he has totally, totally earned, right?