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Joe Maddon on Jon Lester sweepstakes: ‘Just wait for the white smoke’

12.09.14 at 7:26 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — Cubs manager Joe Maddon said that he doesn’t know where free agent Jon Lester might end up or when he might make his decision. But the new Chicago skipper, whose club is one of the finalists for the left-hander’s services, said that he soon expects an indication of Lester’s intentions.

“I’m sure it’s not going to be much longer, I don’t think that it would be, but I have no information or knowledge about that. You talk about it, you just wait for the white smoke,” said Maddon. “I hope we win it. My role has been to ‘€‘’€‘ I spoke to him on the phone once. I’ve never spoken to Jon before that, adversarially with the Rays and the Red Sox for many years, always admired his work from a distance. This is a guy when the game is really big he was always at his best. To possibly get this opportunity to work with him for the first time is very exciting. So I honest to God don’t know where this is at right now. I did talk to him before ‘€‘’€‘ I think it was before Thanksgiving, actually. We had a great conversation, again, because I’d never really spoke with him before. It would be a great boon to us to have this come off.

“Can’t have any more respect for a baseball player than we do for him now,” added Maddon, who managed against Lester with the Rays over the last nine seasons. “For us to be able to pull this off it would be pretty outstanding.”

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, Joe Maddon, Jon Lester,

Manager Ryne Sandberg: Phillies would require ‘wow’ factor in return for Cole Hamels

12.09.14 at 6:54 pm ET
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Left-hander Cole Hamels had a 2.46 ERA for the Phillies in 2014 -- the same mark as Jon Lester had for the Red Sox and A's. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

Left-hander Cole Hamels had a 2.46 ERA for the Phillies in 2014 — the same mark as Jon Lester had for the Red Sox and A’s. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — Need a top-of-the-rotation left-hander? Beyond Jon Lester, the obvious premium option on the market is Cole Hamels.

The Lester and Hamels markets unquestionably are interrelated. Any of the teams — Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants — that are currently engaged on Lester represent obvious potential trade destinations for Hamels if they lose out on him.

As such, according to a source familiar with the Phillies’ thinking, Philadelphia will wait for a full exploration of the Hamels trade market until after Lester signs. At that point, a prospect bidding war could proceed quickly for the 30-year-old, who will represent a $24 million a year average annual salary as calculated for luxury tax purposes over the remaining four years of his contract, with an option for 2018 at $20 million (with an $8 million buyout).

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said that his team would require an enormous haul in order to deal Hamels, who was 9-9 with a career-best 2.46 ERA in 204 2/3 innings in 2014.

“I know with any of these players that [GM Ruben Amaro] wants a deal that’s going to be good for the Philadelphia Phillies going forward. Anyway that he can help the process and add players that can help us not only this next year but in the future, that’s the goal,” said Sandberg. “There’s no way that Ruben’s going to just give away a player.  I mean, we’d have to be wowed to give up a guy like Cole Hamels, which would be a wow that would help us with the process and go in the direction that we want to go. … I’m just waiting to see through this process to see what comes about. Whether Ruben gets wowed or not is yet to be seen. If not, then he’s on our pitching staff, and we build some more starting pitching depth around him.”

Though Hamels has the right to veto trades to 20 teams (reportedly including the Red Sox), the left-hander has told the team that he’d be open to leaving the Phillies. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, Cole Hamels,

Source: Still not at stage for Jon Lester to receive final offers; Red Sox meet with agents

12.09.14 at 5:35 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — According to a major league source, as of Tuesday evening, Jon Lester‘s representatives were not at the point where they were prepared to offer their client a presentation of final offers from the four teams involved.

The source goes on to clarify that Lester’s agents, Sam and Seth Levinson of ACES, met with the Red Sox earlier Tuesday. With the involvement of ownership groups from all teams slowing the process, there was still a strong possibility no decision would be made the pitcher until Wednesday.

In the mix for Lester’s services with the Red Sox are the Dodgers, Giants, and Cubs.

Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans on Jon Lester pursuit: SF ‘probably in the back seat of this deal right now’

12.09.14 at 4:18 pm ET
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Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans suggested some skepticism about his team's chances of landing free agent pitcher Jon Lester. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans suggested some skepticism about his team’s chances of landing free agent pitcher Jon Lester. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — While some have viewed the Giants as an emerging favorite in the sweepstakes for free agent left-hander Jon Lester, assistant GM Bobby Evans said on Tuesday that while his club remained engaged with the 30-year-old, he believed that his club is “probably in the back seat of this deal right now,” with Lester seemingly drawn to his significant pre-existing relationships with the Red Sox and Cubs.

“I think that ultimately Jon has a tough decision to make,” said Evans. “You have a player who’s very passionate about his teammates in Boston, he’s very passionate about the relationships he has with maybe two clubs, including the Cubs, so therefore I think it makes it a harder decision. We at some level may be in the back seat right now. That’s understandable because there are some good options for him.”

Evans said that the Giants delegation that met with Lester in the Atlanta area wanted to convey their high regard for the pitcher, the appeal of pitching in their run-suppressing home environment and the opportunity to work with a highly regarded catcher in Buster Posey, who has been part of three championship teams. Still, Evans said that the Giants are mindful that they can’t match Lester’s history with the Red Sox or the members of the Cubs front office.

“I think there are some things that are attractive about our situation, but I think heartstrings can play a role there,” said Evans. “I know that he’s a passionate guy and I think he’s got some strong and deep relationships with really two clubs at this point in Chicago and in Boston. We put our best foot forward and hope there’s an opportunity to draw him to us because we think he’s a game-changer.

“[But] I feel we’re probably in the back seat of this deal right now. I feel like there are some other guys driving this, and probably we’re staying in it but I’m not sure how strongly we’re a consideration considering the other options.”

Evans said that he “wouldn’t expect” a decision from Lester on Tuesday.

“No timeline,” he said. “We want it sooner than later but we understand he’s got a decision to make and it’s not an easy one.”

Source: A’s were ‘locked in’ on deal with White Sox for Jeff Samardzija

12.09.14 at 2:31 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — According to an industry source, the Red Sox did not appear to be meaningfully in the mix in trade discussions with the A’s to acquire Jeff Samardzija. Instead, according to the source, the A’s appeared “pretty locked in” on the players whom they acquired from the White Sox — infielder Marcus Semien, right-hander Chris Bassitt, catcher Josh Phegley and Double-A corner infielder Rangel Ravelo — rather than trying to spawn a bidding war.

In some ways, that would appear to echo the approach that Oakland took to trading Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays in exchange for infielder Brett Lawrie, right-hander Kendall Graveman, left-hander Sean Nolin and shortstop Franklin Barreto. The A’s consummated that deal without shopping Donaldson to other interested teams; some members of the Red Sox front office, for example, had no inclination that the third baseman was going to be moved and were caught off guard by the deal.

(For what it’s worth: Had the A’s made Donaldson available to the Red Sox, given their need for a third baseman and shortstop, the conversation likely would have started with Xander Bogaerts and grown from there. Whether it would have been in the Sox’ best interests to answer the team’s need for a third baseman while opening a hole at shortstop in a market that is lacking in legitimate everyday options at that position — instead of signing Sandoval (not Donaldson’s equal, but an above-average third baseman) and keeping Bogaerts is a fair and fascinating question.)

While that approach has yielded deals that have been subject to criticism in terms of a perceived light return, some in the industry point to Oakland’s successful track record — including three straight trips to the postseason — in suggesting that the A’s typically have a fairly precise handle on their needs and should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, Jeff Samardzija, Josh Donaldson,

Sources: Red Sox make 1-year offer to free agent Justin Masterson

12.09.14 at 10:51 am ET
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The Red Sox have made a one-year offer to right-hander Justin Masterson. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

The Red Sox have made a one-year offer to right-hander Justin Masterson. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images)

According to industry sources, the Red Sox are one of multiple teams that have made a one-year offer to free agent right-hander Justin Masterson.

Masterson endured a season-long struggle with health in 2014 that stemmed from torn cartilage in his rib cage and a consequent buildup of scar tissue. The discomfort he felt as a result of that injury resulted in mechanical alterations and injuries, including discomfort in his knee and an impingement in his right shoulder that eventually required a cortisone shot in September. However, the diagnosis of scar tissue towards the end of the year offered something of a unified theory for the right-hander’s health woes, which contributed to a year-long struggle (7-9, 5.88 ERA in 28 games and 25 starts) with the Indians and Cardinals.  He is expected to be healthy for next season.

Given that he suffered a down year in 2014 (a season in which he turned down a three-year, $51 million extension offer from the Indians), Masterson appears to be in search of a one-year deal that would permit him to rebuild his value prior to the 2015-16 offseason — whether for talks about an extension with the club with whom he signs for next year or as a free agent. Because he’s a groundball pitcher, Masterson is less concerned about the home ballpark of the team with whom he signs than is typical of other free agents who sign one-year deals, and his relationship with the Red Sox front office (he was in the team’s minor league system under current GM Ben Cherington and current assistant GM Mike Hazen) and manager John Farrell (the pitching coach with whom Masterson worked upon arriving in the big leagues) represents a draw for him as he wades through his free agent options.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, justin masterson,

Source: Jon Lester’s decision could be pushed to Wednesday

12.09.14 at 3:36 am ET
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SAN DIEGO — According to a major league source, Jon Lester‘s decision as to which team he will sign with may drag on into Wednesday.

It was originally believed that the time it would take for Lester to pick a team wouldn’t stretch beyond Tuesday. But, because of the involvement of ownership for multiple interested teams, the process has been slowed.

The source suggests that there is still the possibility that an agreement is in place Tuesday, although it would likely be later in the day.

As of Tuesday morning, the Red Sox were very much in the mix for Lester’s services, with the Cubs, Giants and Dodgers also making strong plays for the free agent pitcher.

Monday, Red Sox manager John Farrell expressed optimism regarding the return of his ace pitcher, telling the assembled media at the winter meetings, “I think we’€™re still confident that we can sign Jon. He’€™s obviously still going through this free agency process. As we came into this offseason, there were a couple spots in the rotation that we needed to add to and address. We’€™re in the midst of that right now. We’€™re still optimistic that he’€™ll be in a Red Sox uniform. There’€™s a lot of history between the Red Sox and Jon. We obviously have a strong desire to bring him back, and yet hopefully this is coming to a little bit of a head here.”

Multiple sources continue to suggest that Lester likely won’t take the highest offer if he deems another team to be a better fit.

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

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Ben Cherington on Jon Lester: ‘I haven’t been told we’re out, so I assume we’re not out’

12.08.14 at 9:28 pm ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

SAN DIEGO — Striking a measured tone, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington met with the Boston media Monday night at the winter meetings to discuss the latest in regards to his team’€™s pursuit of free agent pitcher Jon Lester.

Cherington, who said he had no scheduled meetings with Lester’€™s agents Monday night but did expect to talk to them at some point, couldn’€™t offer any clues as to what path Lester might take, simply saying he expected the pitcher to choose a team soon.

As for a report earlier in the day that suggested the Red Sox were not one of the finalists for Lester (which the pitcher’s agent, Seth Levinson, called “absolutely untrue”), Cherington said, “I haven’t been told we’re out, so I assume we’re not out.”

Here are some of the highlights from the get-together with GM:

The latest on Lester

“With regards to Lester, we respect that he’€™s got a decision that’€™s going to be made and we assume that will be sometime soon. We’€™ve been involved and had a chance to talk to him at length on numerous occasions. It sounds like he’€™s getting closer to a decision. Aside from that, I don’€™t know any more than that. I think we’€™ve never looked at it like Plan A, B, C, D. We’€™ve looked at it like we need to build a rotation so we have to be in all sorts of stuff and we have been on all sorts of stuff all offseason, or to this point in the offseason. There’€™s probably, between free agent possibilities and trade possibilities, 15, 20 starting pitching scenarios we’€™ve talked about and worked on so obviously not all those are going to land and more of those won’€™t land than will land. We just have to stay involved and keep working and work as hard as we can to get the ones to land that make the most sense. I don’€™t see it as a Plan A, B or C. I see it as we’€™re trying to build a good rotation and we’€™ve got to look at every possibility to do that.”

Did you expect Lester’€™s decision to come sooner than it has?

“You know, I guess there was some speculation earlier in the offseason that it might get done sooner, before the winter meetings, so here we are in the winter meetings. On the other hand, as you guys know, most bigger deals don’€™t happen before the Winter Meetings, so probably not surprising that we’€™re here.”

Are you being held up making other moves because of Lester’€™s process?

“No, we really don’€™t. I think we’€™re in a position where we have position player strength and depth. We have resources, we have some financial flexibility. There’€™s all sorts of different ways to build the pitching staff. We’€™ve been able to pursue all kinds of things. Don’€™t feel constrained, other than just trying to find a deal that makes sense. That’€™s the constraint ‘€“ it’€™s not one guy or the other. We’€™re just still working towards deals that make sense.”

Does your budgeted number for the free agent change?

“You have to to some degree. That number can move over time. All sorts of things can factor into what you’€™re going to do whether trade or free agent. It’€™s not necessarily static, circumstances can change which might lead you to change your position even in the context of an offseason, if one thing happens it might affect another so yes there has to be a line. Every team does that. I think it can be different for every team. I don’€™t believe one thing has to make sense for everyone, something might make a lot of sense for one team and not as much for another based on their particular situation. You have to figure out what makes sense for us.”

Regarding the reported meeting between principal owner John Henry and Lester

“There was a report that there was a meeting with John Henry. We’€™d like to be able to do some of these things without that kind of thing getting out but that got out. We’€™ve had opportunity we’€™ve needed to meet with Jon and meet with Seth and give them all the information we can give them.”

John Farrell on Jon Lester: ‘We’re still confident that we can sign Jon’

12.08.14 at 8:39 pm ET
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Manager John Farrell said that he believes remains in the mix for free agent Jon Lester. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Manager John Farrell said that he believes remains in the mix for free agent Jon Lester. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — Though there was a report on Monday that the field for Jon Lester appears to be narrowing to the Giants and Cubs, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that his team still believes that it has a shot to bring back the free-agent left-hander.

“I think we’re still confident that we can sign Jon. He’s obviously still going through this free agency process. As we came into this offseason, there were a couple spots in the rotation that we needed to add to and address. We’re in the midst of that right now,” said Farrell. “We’re still optimistic that he’ll be in a Red Sox uniform. There’s a lot of history between the Red Sox and Jon. We obviously have a strong desire to bring him back, and yet hopefully this is coming to a little bit of a head here.”

Farrell said that he’s been in contact with Lester — either through a phone call or texts — three or four times this offseason. While in some respects the Red Sox — and the rest of the baseball industry — must wait on defining the shape of their rotation until Lester makes his decision, the manager did not express any frustration about the lack of resolution.

“Jon’s going to go through his process as he needs to. He’s earned the right to get to this point in his career. And he’s a primary target for a number of teams. That speaks to his abilities as a player and as a pitcher,” said Farrell. “I think we’ll address every other need accordingly.”

Lester is coming off a year in which he went 16-11 with a career-low 2.46 ERA in a career-high 219 2/3 innings while punching out 9.0 batters per nine and walking 2.0 per nine. Farrell said that his dominant performance in his age 30 season showed a pitcher who has figured out how to adapt and remain a top-of-the-rotation contributor.

“He’s made necessary adjustments as any consistent big league has to make adjustments as they go through the league multiple times and year over year,” said Farrell. “That speaks to his work ethic and his awareness of who he is as a pitcher and how he can be most effective.”

That has convinced the Sox to make a heavy play for the left-hander. Whether the team ultimately goes far enough to retain him remains to be seen, but Farrell made clear that the Sox’ preference is to re-sign Lester.

“We’d love to have Jon back in a Red Sox uniform,” he said.

 

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, Jon Lester,

Yoenis Cespedes and the right field (non-)question

12.08.14 at 6:25 pm ET
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Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes

SAN DIEGO — After the Red Sox signed Hanley Ramirez with the intention of making him their left fielder, manager John Farrell talked to Yoenis Cespedes about the possibility of playing in either center or right field. Cespedes said that he was open to such a possibility.

But while that development has been portrayed as something of a reversal, an industry source clarified that Cespedes never actually objected to the idea of changing positions after joining the Red Sox. Instead, when asked if he was open to playing right, he simply said that he was more comfortable in left because it was a position that he had played previously. The source suggested that the 28-year-old never actually resisted the idea of changing positions, but that once his relative comfort in left was established, the team opted to keep him in his primary major league position for the rest of the season while tabling conversation about a potential position place until the spring — after he would have had a chance to adapt to his new environment following his trade from the A’s (with a competitive balance pick) for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes.

Cespedes hit .260 with a .301 OBP and .450 slugging mark in 152 games with the Red Sox and A’s in 2014, including .269/.296/.423 with the Sox after the trade.

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, Yoenis Cespedes,
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