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.

 

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.