Jon Lester’s first baseball card as a Cub


I still don’t know how I feel about digital trading cards. Those being the cards Topps has put out under the Topps “BUNT” brand that exist only on an app or whatever and are purchased at the App Store of Google Play. Baseball cards were always a tactile thing for me just as much as a visual thing, as the rounded corners of so many of my cards attest. For that reason, seeing graded and appraised cards under hard plastic cases seems wrong too. Let me stack them and sort them and feel them, please.

But it is always, ALWAYS wise to question any impulse you have which inspires you to reflexively assert that things were better when you were a kid. Or, rather, to feel things were better. Yes, some things were better. But lots of things weren’t and nostalgia, I have come to believe, is one of the more toxic and progress-impeding impulses around. It’s like a drug, actually. Enjoy it in moderation — there are highs to be found with it — but don’t turn your life over to it and become dependent. If you do, you’ll become cranky and insulated and you’ll miss a lot of good things the world has to offer. And it’ll be a totally self-inflicted wound.

So for that reason, I’m going to chuck my love of actual hard copy baseball cards to the side for a brief moment and note that Topps has come out with the first Jon Lester baseball card portraying him as a Chicago Cub. It’s digital only, natch:


I like the idea of a “Departures” set. It covers much more ground than the old “Traded” sets used to. And with 100% less airbrushing of caps and things. Though, honestly, an airbrushed picture of Lester pitching for the A’s, changed to a Cubs uniform, might be more fun than seeing a ballplayer wearing a jersey over a shirt and tie.

Dang. There goes that nostalgia again.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

tampa bay rays
Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.