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.

 

Marcus Stroman: José Bautista could ‘easily’ pitch in MLB bullpen

José Bautista and Marcus Stroman
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José Bautista hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2018 but the 39-year-old isn’t done playing just yet. Last month, we learned via a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan that Bautista is hoping to come back as a two-way player. He spent the winter working out as a pitcher.

Bautista had also been working with former Blue Jays teammate Marcus Stroman. Back in January, Stroman tweeted, “My bro @JoeyBats19 is nasty on the mound. We been working working. All jokes aside, this man can pitch in a big league bullpen. I’ll put my word on it!”

In March, Passan added some details about Bautista, writing, “I’ve seen video of Jose Bautista throwing a bullpen session. Couldn’t tell the velocity, but one source said he can run his fastball up to 94. His slider had legitimate tilt — threw a short one and a bigger bender. @STR0 said in January he could pitch in a big league bullpen.” Stroman retweeted it, adding, “Facts!”

Stroman reiterated his feelings on Tuesday. He tweeted, “Since y’all thought I wasn’t being serious when I said it the first time…my bro @JoeyBats19could EASILY pitch in a big league bullpen. Easily. Sinker, slider, and changeup are MLB ready!” Stroman attached a video of Bautista throwing a slider, in which one can hear Stroman calling the pitch “nasty.”

Stroman attached another video of Bautista throwing a glove-side sinker:

Replying to a fan, Stroman said Bautista’s body “is in better shape than 90-95% of the league.”

I am not a scout and won’t pretend to be one after watching two low-resolution videos. And Stroman’s hype is likely partially one friend attempting to uplift another. That being said, I’ve seen much worse from position players attempting to pitch. It’s a long shot, especially given his age, that Bautista will ever pitch in the majors, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get an opportunity to pitch in front of major league scouts.