With no immediate rebukes from the Chicago Cubs or other sourced reports, I’d say it’s fair to conclude at this point that Jon Heyman’s report last evening that the Cubs’ present offer to free agent lefty Jon Lester is indeed six years and $138 million. That squares with what Dave Kaplan reported last week, and Mark Gonzales adds today that a source tells him the Cubs have offered a multiyear deal worth “at least” $23 million annually (6/$138M is an AAV of $23M).
As to the other important part of Heyman’s report – that the Red Sox may be willing to go to $130 million – Nick Cafardo writes this morning about Boston’s pursuit of Lester, and, although he sticks to the $120 million range he’d previously reported, he does openly wonder whether the Red Sox could get Lester at a “hometown discount” if they went to $130 million. It’s hard to see the final tally not being higher than either $130 million or $138 million, but we can’t know where the negotiations will go until Lester has completed his initial round of meetings – Cafardo mentions that Lester could meet with an additional two, unidentified teams this week (the Blue Jays? the Dodgers? the Yankees? the Cardinals, if they changed their mind?) – and whether the Giants made him a significant offer at their meeting near Atlanta yesterday.
No word yet on that meeting with the Giants, by the way. We’ll see if anything leaks today about how it went or whether the Giants made an offer.
In the interim, we continue to wait. If Lester does meet with additional teams this week, you can expect the process to carry into the weekend, at least. The Winter Meeting start on Monday, and it’s possible that Lester and his representatives will just want to head to San Diego next week and continue discussions there with every team in one place, and perhaps an extra itchy trigger finger or two. Maybe the Yankees have just been lying in wait all along, hoping the Cubs and Red Sox would set the offer bar low enough that they can swoop in with an over-the-top seven-year deal.
The signs all continue to point to the fact that Lester is taking this process seriously, and is genuinely considering at least some of the teams with whom he’s meeting (as opposed to strictly wanting one particular team, and using the rest as a way to drive up the price on that one team). My gut still says the Red Sox would be the choice if everything was equal, and it is unclear whether everything else even needs to be equal for them to land Lester.*
*(Although, if I’m completely honest, at least some portion of that is probably latent Cubs-related pessimism when it comes to these things, rather than a 100% objective read of the situation. I try to keep it mostly the latter, but, hey, I’m a Cubs fan at heart. And Cubs fans’ hearts have been burned.)
In any case, as Cafardo points out, the Red Sox may view Lester as their top priority right now, but there are many, many other avenues for them to acquire pitching this offseason. The same remains true for the Cubs, though they may be less inclined to go after various one-year options like the Red Sox might. Still, even as the teams wait on Lester, there’s no reason to assume that either the Cubs or the Red Sox – or both – will be totally out of luck if they miss out on Lester.