The wait is finally over, and the Cubs got their guy. I can’t quite believe it, but according to multiple reports, the Cubs and free-agent pitcher Jon Lester have agreed to a six-year, $155 million deal.
Bruce Levine reports that the Cubs did in fact include a vesting option for a seventh year. The Red Sox’s final offer was six years, $135 million with no seventh-year vesting option, according to WEEI’s Alex Speier.
What a difference a year makes. Last year, the Cubs lost out on manager Joe Girardi and international free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to the Yankees.
Now they have Joe Maddon and Jon Lester. Safe to say the Cubs came out on top.
OK, so now what? The other day, Theo Epstein said a Lester signing could change the thought process on this offseason. “If you get a player that makes a significant difference for you in the standings then you prioritize creating a winning roster immediately around that player, whereas if the offseason goes in a slightly different direction you just continue to build more organically and continue to think more longer-term,” he told Jesse Rogers on Friday.
I’m pretty sure Lester falls into that category of “significant.” Monday night, Ken Rosenthal said the Cubs would pursue a “big bat” if they signed Lester.
So who might that be? You’d have to think it would be either an outfielder or third baseman based on availability around the diamond. Maybe a Chase Headley? Tom suggested Carlos Gonzalez as a possibility last night. Or perhaps they would like to go after Ben Zobrist, to bring in a familiar face for Joe Maddon.
I still can’t really believe they landed Lester. Huge props to the Cubs’ front office. All along, I saw the Cubs falling short — most likely to Boston. But they didn’t. Let’s enjoy it.
Can’t wait to see Lester take the mound on Opening Night 2015 as the Cubs’ ace.
Montero deal official
The Cubs yesterday finalized the trade for Diamondbacks’ catcher Miguel Montero. Heading back to Arizona are minor league pitchers Jeferson Mejia and Zack Godley.
Mejia, 20, pitched in 12 games in Rookie-level Mesa this year. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Mejia has the most of upside of the two pitchers. But he’s a long ways away from the big leagues.
Godley has much less upside, as he projects as a reliever.
The Cubs have a lot of players like these two roaming around their farm system, so this seems like a pretty good trade. I’m not thrilled that the Cubs had to settle on Montero, as opposed to Russell Martin, but hopefully he will surprise me.
Now, what does this mean for catcher Welington Castillo? Shortly after the trade went down yesterday, Jeff Passan reported the Cubs would now look to trade Castillo.
Theo Epstein, who met with the media last night, had a different tone. “We’re not shopping Wely at all,” Epstein told Patrick Mooney. “The second that the Montero news came out, we got calls from a number of teams about Wely. We’ll always listen, just because it would be crazy not to listen. But we really like the way those two fit together.”
Whatever the Cubs’ intentions are, I doubt Epstein would come out and say they’re actively shopping Castillo. But I think they’re in a good spot.
If they can get good value for him, pull the trigger on a trade. If not, you have a fairly young option behind the plate who can hit a little.
Could the acquisition of Jon Lester mean a trade of Castillo is more likely? David Kaplan says the Cubs met with Lester’s former teammate David Ross last night. You’d have to figure if the Cubs were set on keeping Castillo at this point that they wouldn’t be bringing in Ross as well.
* The Jeff Samardzija trade between the White Sox and A’s was made official yesterday, with infielder Marcus Semien, catcher Josh Phegley, RHP Chris Bassitt and first-base prospect Rangel Ravelo going to Oakland. In addition to Samardzija, the White Sox get RHP prospect Michael Ynoa. It still seems like the A’s could have gotten a better haul for Shark, but we’ll see how it plays out. This is the A’s we’re talking about — maybe Josh Phegley will become the next Josh Donaldson.
* With the departure of prospect Jeferson Mejia in the trade for Miguel Montero, pitcher Duane Underwood has now cracked the Cubs’ top 20 prospects on MLB.com.
* Double-A and Triple-A minor league games next year could feature pitch clocks, similar to what was tested during the Arizona Fall League, according to MiLB.com. I’m surprised to see pitch clocks surviving this long. Didn’t think it would be continued. One pace-of-play measure I liked a lot — automatic intentional walks — does not appear to be continued. Go figure.