This off season, the Chicago Cubs are likely going to target top of the rotation free agent starting pitchers. There is Max Scherzer, Justin Masterson, James Shields, but the one the Cubs are likely going to make their primary target is Jon Lester.
I know what some of you are saying. Of course Lester is their primary target, he is a former Boston Red Sox player. The all too famous line used by some fans when the Cubs sign someone who was connected to the Red Sox at one point in time. As if turning into the Red Sox was a bad thing. They have been one of the most successful franchises in baseball the past 10 years. I would love to become the Red Sox and win a couple championships in the next decade.
In order to get Lester to Chicago, the Cubs are going to have to pony up a big contract, likely around the six year, $105 Million deal that Homer Bailey received; they might even have to pay a little more to seal the deal. They have the money to do so. After all the arbitration contracts are finalized, the Cubs will have a vault of money left to hand out. They could easily afford a triple digit contract for Lester, and maybe even another one if they see a need, which they just might.
Lester makes a lot of sense for the Cubs, giving them a dominant left handed starter at the top of their rotation. Have him followed by Arrieta would give the Cubs a nice solid 1-2 punch. As the only two starters who would be guaranteed to have a spot in the rotation (baring injuries) that is a great start.
Signing Lester would give the Cubs a rotation of Lester – Jake Arrieta – and three spots left. With the way Kyle Hendricks has been pitching I have no reason to believe that he will not be a shoe in for one of those three spots, but nothing is a given in today’s game. Tsuyoshi Wada has also been pitching well and might be re-signed to a short term extension. Pitchers the Cubs have traded for could also fill the void, Jacob Turner, Felix Doubront and Dan Straily are also candidates to fill out the rotation. If just one of those three succeed here, then the trades were a grand success.Then there is Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson, both who are in serious danger of not being on the team next year. Seven pitchers for three spots is not a bad competition.
Of course, the Cubs could still sign another one of the top front line rotation starters to help round out the rotation. Not sure I would want Scherzer or Sheilds, though I would not be terribly upset if they signed them. Scherzer will cost a lot more than Lester though, and could be considered an injury risk (as could any pitcher really) and Shields has a lot of miles on his arm. Perhaps Masterson could be added to the mix, like Lester he would not cost a draft pick. Masterson would make a very nice two or three starter if the price was right.
Whether or not they sign more than one pitcher, most people believe that the Cubs are going to make Lester their number one priority. With as much money as the Cubs have to spend, I would be severely surprised if he is not wearing blue pinstripes next season. Not only would I be surprised, but I would be very disappointed if the Cubs failed to sign him this off season.
A lot of fans are taking an “I’ll believe it when I see it” mindset, and after the last two years I can hardly blame them. With all the money they now have freed up (even if they eat the remaining $22 Million owed to Jackson) there is absolutely no reason not to spend big on some big name pitching this off season. With the kids on their way, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler leading the charge, the team needs pitching to help keep the team in the hunt. Lester would be the perfect addition.