Jon Lester talks enter final turn

ByBuster Olney ESPN logo
Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Jon Lester talks have reached the homestretch with multiple offers of at least $150 million over six years, but his ultimate choice has been slowed by having to deal with negotiations with those teams, according to sources. Those negotiations might mean Lester could wait until Wednesday to make his final decision, sources said.

The options have dwindled by one, asSan Francisco Giantsgeneral manager Brian Sabean confirmed Tuesday night that his organization had been told Lester would sign elsewhere.

In saying no, Lester called Sabean, manager Bruce Bochy and catcher Buster Posey to thank them for their respect in the process, a source told ESPN.

Lester has drawn interest from the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans said earlier Tuesday that the organization felt like it's been placed on Lester's back-burner.

"I feel we're probably in the backseat of this deal right now," Evans said. "I feel there are some other guys that are driving this and we're probably staying in it, but I'm not sure how strongly we're in consideration considering the other options."

"I think there are some things that are attractive about our situation, but I think that heartstrings can play a role there," Evans explained. "I don't know how much of a role it plays for Jon relative to Boston, but I know he's a passionate guy who has some strong and deep relationships that are with, really, two clubs at this point, in Chicago and in Boston.

"We put our best foot forward and hope it draws him to us, because he's a game-changer."

As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, according to a league source, the Dodgers, who have had multiple conversations with Lester's agents, expected to have at least one more conversation before Lester was presented with offers from all four teams still in the running.

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, 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.'s Gordon Edes and's Mark Saxon contributed to this report.

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