Decision day looms for Jon Lester with a deal expected soon. (USATSI)
SAN DIEGO — The Jon Lester sweepstakes are winding down to a close, and the star free agent lefthander is said to have multiple six- and seven-year opportunities, with a near certainty he’ll exceed $150 million and a possibility he could get close to $170 million.
There is no definitive word about where the four bona fide contenders for his services — the Giants, Cubs, Red Sox and Dodgers — stack up. But the Giants, who were believed to have a geographic disadvantage, seem to figure somewhat more prominently than some would have imagined when the process started.
Red Sox: It’s where he has played all but two months of his superb career, hold the advantage of familiarity, playing comfort in the American League and trusted manager John Farrell, but some are wondering if there’s any lingering upset on Lester’s part of their oddly low $70-million offer, which is sure to be double now, nine months later.
Giants: They are putting on a full-court press, with their attention undivided at the moment. The team that’s won three World Series in the last five years is said to be “all in.” But there’s still a question as to how anxious Lester, an Atlanta resident, is to go to the West Coast, where he gre up (Tacoma, Wash.) and played the last two months of the 2014 season (Oakland).
Cubs: With ex-Red Sox bosses Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer holding a close connection to Lester, are said to be trying hard, as well. Competitors suggest the Cubs will be very disappointed if they don’t win the derby.
Dodgers: They seem like a wild card on the outside, with another involved executive saying they just seemed to be “sending up flares,” suggesting they are more on a fact-finding mission. It is thought they are the one team not to meet personally with Lester, which seems to raise a question of how invested they are.
All the involved teams seem to have made pushes in recent days, with the Red Sox, who were hoping to keep it to $130 million, even making a push that is said to put them at double their spring offer, at least. Team owner John Henry, who feels a special connection with Lester, is said to be heavily invested, not just financially.
There have been suggestions there might be a fifth team involved. The Braves had a meeting with Lester in his adopted hometown of Atlanta, but they’ve suggested that while they love him, the timing isn’t right. Despite late-night rumors here, there’s no evidence the Yankees are involved, as they seem to prefer the other top free agent starter Max Scherzer, though they still haven’t decided whether they will make a run at even him.
Not much is for certain here, except the money. On that score, Lester, who has no career hits in 41 at-bats, will hit a home run
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