The bidding for Jon Lester has picked up over the last few weeks, with the Red Sox and Cubs offering the prized left-hander upwards of $130 million over six years and the Giants also reportedly in hard pursuit after losing out on Pablo Sandoval.
But a late entrant for Lester’s services emerged Wednesday night. According to Rob Bradford and Alex Speier of WEEI.com, the Dodgers are the latest club to show serious interest in Lester. Multiple sources told the Boston site that the Dodgers are expected to make a hard push for Lester with one source suggesting that he “would be ‘shocked’ if the Dodgers don’t end up being the high bid in the Lester sweepstakes.”
Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal also wrote Wednesday about the Dodgers’ interest in a top arm such as Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields. The premise behind such a signing seemed pretty simple; the Dodgers’ rotation depth showed cracks at times during last season’s stretch run and adding a name like Lester would give Los Angeles the best front of a rotation baseball has seen since Halladay-Lee-Hamels.
But as it turns out, Kershaw-Greinke-Lester may not be the 1-2-3 punch Los Angeles has in mind once the dust settles. Shortly after Bradford and Speier’s report, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation wrote that the there is “growing concern within the Dodgers organization” that Greinke could opt out of his contract after next season, and that the club might make him available in trade talks this winter.
Greinke will make $23 million next season and is owed $71 million over the final three years of his contract should he decide not to opt out. Whether Greinke would be able to get that type of AAV on the open market heading into his age-33 season is questionable, but given that Shields (who is also entering his age-33 season) is expected to get a four or five-year deal this winter, seeking one last big contract could make sense for Greinke.
In the event that the Dodgers do decide to chase another top starting pitcher, expect that arm to come via the free agent market. Rosenthal also mentioned in his article that talks between the Dodgers and Phillies regarding Cole Hamels have stalled due to Philadelphia’s demand for either Corey Seager or Joc Pederson to come back in a package for Hamels.
Yankees could be favorites to land Andrew Miller
The chase for Andrew Miller may be winding down, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports wrote yesterday that the left-handed reliever is expected to have a deal “within a day or two,” with the Yankees among the favorites.
While Miller was busy shutting down the Tigers in October, our own Jeff Long delved into Miller’s transformation from failed starting pitching prospect to shutdown relief ace. In his analysis, Long highlighted the uptick in velocity that Miller experienced upon moving to the bullpen, his transition to becoming strictly a fastball-slider pitcher, mechanical tweaks and improved command among the reasons for Miller’s ascension.
Those developments all culminated in a 2.02 ERA and 1.51 FIP for Miller, in 2014 along with the second-best strikeout rate in baseball. He trailed some guy named Chapman in that category. Perhaps the most critical improvement to surface among Miller’s numbers was his 2.45 BB/9; it was the first time in the 29-year-old’s career that he posted a mark south of 4.25 BB/9.
The growth that Miller made seems legitimate and expectations are that he’ll be rewarded with a deal that will shatter the record contract for a non-closer. Heyman wrote that Miller is “all but assured of a four-year deal that's expected to pay him close to $40 million.”
A reunion in Beantown was once thought to be a possibility for Miller, but Heyman and The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo both reported Wednesday afternoon that the Red Sox are likely out of the running on the prized left-hander.
Heyman originally included the Dodgers among the finalists for Miller but later updated the story, saying that they are no longer seen as a favorite. With Los Angeles attempting to cut payroll by shopping one of their expensive outfielders, and gearing up for a possible run at one of the top starting pitchers, investing significant dollars in a premium relief option doesn’t appear to be a priority.
So that brings us to the Yankees, who may actually prefer Miller as an alternative to bringing David Robertson back to the Bronx. New York could save somewhere in the ballpark of $10 million-$12 million dollars over the course of a four-year deal by signing Miller over Robertson. Furthermore, unlike Robertson, Miller has no draft pick compensation attached to him.
Heyman notes that the Yankees haven’t ruled out the possibility of going after both Miller and Robertson — a move that would lend them a powerful bullpen trio including Dellin Betances. But considering they have already been reportedly priced out of the Chase Headley market, committing serious financial resources to their bullpen seems unlikely.
The other team that Heyman mentioned as a favorite to land Miller was the Astros, but it appears that Houston’s best bet may lie in adding a cheaper alternative to its bullpen. Late Wednesday night, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle wrote that the Astros are not expected to land the left-hander and that the “chatter surrounding the Astros’ pursuit of a top closer doesn’t line up with the likelihood they actually land one.”
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