Either Cubs or Red Sox for Jon Lester

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

And then there were two.

The Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox are the only teams remaining in the running for free agent left-hander Jon Lester, according to ESPN sources and multiple reports.

Giants GM Brian Sabean confirmed Tuesday night that his team is out. In saying no to San Francisco, Lester called Sabean, manager Bruce Bochy and catcher Buster Posey to thank them for their respect in the process.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are also out, sources told ESPN.

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington indirectly acknowledged that Lester could elect to go elsewhere.

"We need to build a rotation, and we need to be in on all sorts of stuff, and we have been in on all sorts of stuff," Cherington said late Monday. "There are probably 15 to 20 starting pitching scenarios we've talked about and worked on. Not all of those are going to land; more won't than will. But we're working as hard as we can. We're going to build a good rotation."

The Cubs remain confident they can land Lester as rumors emerged throughout the day on Tuesday it was once again down to the Cubs or Red Sox.

"This is his life and his decision and everyone should give him space to evaluate the options and get together with his family and make a decision," Cubs President Theo Epstein said. "I'm not caught up at all with the timing of it."

Once Lester has a general agreement in place with a team, there will be other issues to resolve before there is a formal announcement, such as a medical review and a physical examination.

Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry flew to the Atlanta area Friday for a one-on-one meeting with the former Boston left-hander, WEEI.com reported Saturday, citing multiple major league sources.

Henry and other members of Red Sox ownership had previously met with Lester during the free-agent process, the website reported.

Lester, 30, went 6-4 with a 2.35 ERA for the Oakland Athletics after he was acquired in a blockbuster trade-deadline deal with the Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Overall, Lester was 16-11 with a career-best 2.46 ERA in 2014.

He was on the hill for the A's in the American League wild-card game against the Kansas City Royals and left in the eighth inning with runners on first and second with one out and his team leading 7-4. The Royals eventually won the game 9-8 in 12 innings.

Lester is noted for his performance in the postseason, where he has a 6-4 record and 2.57 ERA in 14 appearances. He has been dominant in the World Series, where he is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in three starts, helping the Red Sox win two championships.

Lester, who has a career mark of 116-67 with a 3.58 ERA in nine seasons, rejected a four-year, $70 million contract extension offer from the Red Sox in the spring. He was paid $13 million last season.

ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney, ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes and ESPNLosAngeles.com's Mark Saxon contributed to this report.

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