The latest on Jon Lester
The top left-hander on the free agent market will spend his offseason in the Atlanta area after buying a $3.4 million mansion there last April. He will not, however, spend the upcoming year with the Braves.
David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote Monday that the Braves won’t match dollars with higher-payroll clubs for the former Red Sox ace, who could return to Boston but is also on the minds of the Cubs and Giants. In fact, Lester met with Giants representatives including manager Bruce Bochy yesterday, as he continues to mull over where he’d like to spend the bulk of his 30s.
Sources told CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman that the active offers in the Lester bidding are $138 million from the Cubs and $130 million from the Red Sox, both over six years. If those reports are accurate, the Giants would have to pony up at least that much to stay in the running. The Braves have already put away their wallet.
Given the high volume of interest in the southpaw’s services, Heyman speculated that Lester might reel in $25 million a year with a total outlay in excess of $150 million. Our own Jeff Moore projected three or four more years of ace- or no. 2 starter-level work from Lester, who turns 31 on January 7th. He’s coming off his best year (4.2 WARP) since 2009 (5.3 WARP) but is just two years removed from a 4.82 ERA dud.
Plan B for southpaw-hungry clubs that can’t afford Lester might be Liriano, who posted a 3.38 ERA backed by a 3.56 FIP with the Pirates this past year. But those suitors will have to snatch the 31-year-old away from the Bucs, who are intent on keeping him in black and yellow.
According to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation, Liriano—whose 162 2/3 innings in 2014 marked his heftiest workload since 2010—is general manager Neal Huntington’s “main priority,” with other starting pitchers on the backburner until he puts pen to paper.
Liriano’s first tour of free agency took him from Chicago to Pittsburgh, where he inked a one-year, $1 million deal with an $8 million club option for 2014 that vested when he stayed healthy the previous season. Following back-to-back seasons sans elbow or shoulder trouble—which plagued him from 2006, when he underwent Tommy John surgery, until 2011, when he needed two separate disabled-list stints to nurse his shoulder—Liriano should be in line for a much bigger payday this time around.
Cotillo believes Liriano will secure a three- or four-year commitment, and noted that the Red Sox and Royals have shown interest. Manager Clint Hurdle’s rotation currently consists of Gerrit Cole, Vance Worley, Jeff Locke, and A.J. Burnett, who came back across the Keystone State earlier this offseason. Mid-rotation starters who can hold down the fort until prospects like Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham are ready to step in will be a dire need if both Liriano and fellow free agent Edinson Volquez leave town.
Astros want an experienced closer
Six different pitchers earned saves for the Astros in 2014, with Chad Qualls—owner of a sparkling 43-to-3 K:UIBB ratio—leading the pack with 19. If general manager Jeff Luhnow’s rebuild goes according to plan, there will be a lot more save opportunities in Houston in the coming years, and he wants a seasoned ninth-inning stopper around to handle them.
Ex-Yankee David Robertson is the first choice, and an executive told Heyman the right-hander already has $39 million over three years on the table, possibly from the Astros. Whether or not that offer came from Houston, it’s an indication that the righty won’t come cheaply or without the sort of long-term hitch relievers often make their employers regret.
If the Astros opt to hunt for bargains, they might find one in former Giants closer Sergio Romo, who lost his save chances to Santiago Casilla but pitched very well after being demoted to setup duties. Romo cast aside his nascent changeup and regained feel for his no-dot slider
stifling opponents to the tune of a 20-to-1 K:BB ratio and just one homer allowed in 16 innings from the beginning of August through the end of the regular season.
A lack of premium fastball velocity makes Romo an unorthodox choice to close, but he’s just a season removed from 38 conversions in 43 tries and a 2.54 ERA assembled along the way.