Cubs manager Joe Maddon has tabbed Jon Lester to start on Opening Day, The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney reports. That certainly comes as no surprise, as Lester started on Opening Day for the Cubs in 2017 and ’18, as well as 2015. When he was with the Red Sox, Lester started four consecutive Opening Days from 2011-14.
Lester, 35, finished ninth in NL Cy Young Award balloting last season, going 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA and a 149/64 K/BB ratio across 181 2/3 innings. The veteran lefty is entering the fifth year of his six-year, $155 million contract and will earn $22.5 million in 2019.
The Cubs open the regular season with an interleague match-up in Texas against the Rangers on March 28.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will try to get Fernando Tatís Jr. locked up in a long-term deal before the start of the 2020 season.
It’d be a wise move from the team’s perspective, of course. Tatís showed in 2019 that he’s the future of the franchise, hitting .317/.379/.590 with 22 homers and 16 stolen bases through 84 games while playing spectacular defense at short. He was a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year Award before going down to injury and still finished third despite playing just a tad over half a season.
That talent and promise means that, in all likelihood, Tatís stands to make massive money in arbitration and free agency once he gets there. If he gets there, that is. Because as we’ve seen so often in recent years, teams have been aggressive in their efforts to lock up young stars like Tatís, buying out their arbitration and at least a couple of their free agency years. These deals tend to be team-friendly, with multiple team options aimed at getting maximal value out of such players before they hit the open market. Of course, the players get much more up front money than they would in the three seasons in which teams can and do set their salaries unilaterally, usually at less than $1 million per year. It’s a standard now vs. later tradeoff, even if the value of the “now” is far less than the value of “later” and even if it pays these guys far less than they’re worth overall.
But that’s the system. And it’s one which will force Tatís to make a tough choice: either take a deal at a time when the team has most of the leverage or else turn down millions in hand now in order take a shot at many more millions later. In his case, he’ll have a rookie season with multiple injuries to think about too. Does that portend future injury issues? Could he, like some players who have been in his shoes before, end up damaged goods by the time he expected to get paid?
We’ll see how both he and the Padres calculate all of that between now and February, it seems.