Expect the Hot Stove to really heat up

 The decision is finally in: Jon Lester will be a Chicago Cub. The left-hander has reportedly agreed to a six-year deal worth $155 million with a $15 million vesting option for a seventh year. According to various reports Lester’s decision came down to the Cubs and his former team the Boston Red Sox. The San Francisco Giants were informed earlier on Tuesday afternoon that they would not be the ace’s destination.

The Red Sox reportedly made a six year offer worth $135 million to Lester, who ultimately decided he wanted a chance at making history with the Cubs. Over the past week it was speculated that the 31-year old would receive somewhere between $150-to-$160 million by the time it was all said and done. There are some reports suggesting the Giants would have been willing to go a seventh year, but no club formally offered the extra term.

Lester fronts a Cubs roster loaded with young talent that could contend in the National League Central division as early as next year. I had been of the opinion that if Lester wanted to return to Boston the contract would have been signed already, and judging by Chicago’s pursuit of the star hurler, there are few people outside of Beantown that are surprised to hear of his decision. Not to mention the fact that the Red Sox lowball offer in the spring of four years and $70 million and eventually trade of Lester to the Oakland Athletics all but sealed the end of that relationship.

The Lester decision has held up a majority of the market up to this point in time. The Red Sox have several players available in trade and were likely to hold off on other deals before getting word from their former prospect. The contract also sets the bar for top free agent starter Max Scherzer who’s believed to be seeking $200 million-plus.

Earlier on Tuesday left-hander Francisco Liriano re-signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates for three years and $39 million, but otherwise the second-tier of free agent starting pitching has understandably been in flux. Expect the market for pitchers such as Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, and others to become more clear in the coming days. James Shields, the third member of the top trio of starters, is also expected to have his market develop quicker with Lester off the board. The Red Sox are believed to be turning their attention to Shields and Cole Hamels, who is available for the right offer.

It didn’t appear that the Seattle Mariners were interested in committing big dollars to a pitcher and were never involved in the Lester talks beyond preliminary conversations. That’s not particularly surprising as the team has a reasonably solid rotation and more pressing needs on the offensive side of things. However a signing of someone such as Lester would have made moving a James Paxton or Taijuan Walker for a bat a much easier pill to swallow. There is still the possibility of adding a McCarthy or Edinson Volquez type to boost the middle of the rotation.

GM Jack Zduriencik has all but said that Walker and Paxton will not be moved and because of that the club is believed to be out of the running for outfielder Matt Kemp who has also been connected to the San Diego Padres and Baltimore Orioles.

Not only will Lester’s signing affect the pitching market, but the position player market as well.

Jonny Gomes was linked to the Mariners last week and would make sense for the club as a platoon bat. The outfielder played with Lester in both Boston and Oakland and the Cubs are reportedly looking to add a couple veteran bats to the roster.

There is also some speculation that Melky Cabrera could come to a decision in the near future as well. Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that talks with the outfielder are ‘stalled’. Earlier in the week the Mariners were connected to Cabrera from several within the industry and were even considered a frontrunner at one point. It is believed that Cabrera is looking for a five-year commitment and Seattle is willing to go four.

Dutton also reports that the M’s are once again showing interest in Chicago White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo. The Mariners have been connected to the 25-year old on several occasions and were thought to be in some capacity of trade talks last July. Viciedo would add some right-handed power to the lineup and fill a hole in right field, but isn’t particularly good defensively and has a very spotty track record. The idea of swapping out of options starter Erasmo Ramirez for Viciedo could make sense as the White Sox do have a hole at the back of their rotation even after the acquisition of Jeff Samardzija.

The Winter Meetings don’t officially conclude until Thursday, but Wednesday typically marks the unofficial end leading up to the Rule 5 draft on Thursday morning.

Expect most management teams to be getting very little sleep tonight. A lot could happen on Wednesday now that Lester has committed to the Cubs.

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Tyler Carmont

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10 Comments

  1. I could be wrong about the specifics, but I assume that Hamels’ no-trade clause would get in the way. Presumably he would be very specific about where he is willing to play. The club has also shown significant reluctance to trade Walker for a bat — the more pressing need — so while I do understand your logic, I’d store this one under the very unlikely category.

  2. Reports are that the M’s have talked to the Nat’s about I. Desmond. That B. Miller, James Jones and a top minor leaguer could be a package. And the M’s would try to sign him long term before season starts.

  3. Doubt Viciedo is a serious option, even as a 4th outfielder he is a bad idea. I think they are going to wait out the market on Melky. When he finally realizes/accepts the fact that no team is giving him 5 years, he will accept Seattle’s 4 year deal. In the meantime I wouldn’t mind seeing the team puck up a fourth outfielder (maybe Rios). Winter meetings were very quiet this year, pretty disappointing!

  4. “…if the cost of Viciedo is Ramirez then why not add him.”

    Because Dayan Viciedo is a shitty baseball player?

    He’s bad at defense. He’s not a good hitter. And he isn’t even a good candidate for a platoon. He literally bring nothing to the table besides power.

    Might as well just sign Delmon Young. He’s the exact same player skill set, but a much better hitter. And he’s also available for nothing but a modest paycheck.

  5. The M’s still have a nice amount of cash and pitching and D has been the trademark of the best team the M’s have had.

    So why not just go all in on pitching. Hamels contract for what he is. Is actually a decent contract as a #1 on any team but LAD.

    So why not the M’s? The M’s could send more MLB ready top talent than a lot of teams and not kill o5r hurt the roster or their minor leagues. Sending T Walker, J. Jones, R. Elias and a minor league guy like Gabby. Put Hamels is our #1 with Felix, Iwakuma and Paxton with Happ as the #5. The best 1 through 4 in the AL and the Btas are improved even as is. Or add Viciedo for a prospect and boom. Be a favorite for the world series.

  6. I agree that if the cost of Viciedo is Ramirez then why not add him. The problem is if he becomes the starter in RF. As a 4th OF/platoon bat I could see it. I worry a bit about San Francisco scooping up Cabrera. They were willing to spend $168M and 7 years on Lester and didn’t get him. If they use that same money on Cabrera and Headley and someone like Beachy or Medlen, they are probably back in the series.

  7. I would move a bullpen arm or a guy like Ramirez for Viciedo. I don’t think he is an impact guy but would be a useful piece off the bench and against LH pitchers.

  8. Hamels will cost three players (one significant) if they kick in some money to offset the contracts. If they tried to force Ryan Howard in the deal they would get virtually nothing back as that contract is garbage.

  9. Today and tomorrow should be interesting! I wonder who the M’s will come away with from the Meetings? From Dutton’s information, things maybe don’t sound as promising as they did a couple of days ago.

    If the Cabrera decision is about years, I still hope they sign the guy anyway, because it seems to me it would mean they shouldn’t have to cough up any of their young SPs, and those players would still be around for making deals later (like at the deadline). Who knows what the actual “window” is for competing with Cano, Felix and Cruz on board, but if it’s maybe 3-4 years, I sure hope they don’t waste any of that opportunity by dickering over an extra year with someone (as long as what he’s demanding is at least somewhat reasonable).

    I’m disheartened to see that the M’s are interested in Dayan Viciedo again (as per MLBTradeRumors). The thought of them maybe trading away someone useful for Viciedo bothers me.

  10. I am a huge baseball fan in general andI was really wanting Lester to be a Cub. I think it is good for their team and for baseball as a whole. I follow the minor leagues more than most and there system is so stacked with guys on the verge of being huge MLB ready stars it is mind blowing. I drafted in a Dynasty league K. Bryant 3 years ago along with Edwards and Pierce there top pitching arms. Really cant wait to see them all this season.

    As to how it affects the Hot Stove. Teams have been waiting for this shoe to drop. And it puts Boston in a position to have to trade for a TOP SP. Hamels is a guy they may have to fork up 5 prospects for maybe even 6 with a high priced Phillie add in such as Howard who becomes a 10 and 5 guy in a few months. Amaro has to be drooling right now at the chances he has innfront of him to add young talent.

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