|12.18.14 at 8:46 pm ET|
Former Red Sox pitcher and current Cubs pitcher Jon Lester joined the Hot Stove show Thursday night with Mike Mutnansky, Rob Bradford and Alex Speier to discuss what the free agent process was like, what the negotiations last spring training were like with the Red Sox, and also what it was like the hours and days following officially signing with the Cubs.
Lester signed with the Cubs for six years and $155 million, with a vesting option for a seventh year.
Everyone keeps coming back to the reported 4-year/$70 million offer the Red Sox gave to Lester during spring training last season. What if the Red Sox came in with a higher offer — such as the Cliff Lee, 5-year/$120 million deal — would Lester have accepted?
“That is one of those deals where hindsight is 20/20. You go back in time and you look at it and you go probably yes,” said Lester. “I mean you don’t know. I mean it is one of those deals where when it is sitting in front of you that is a lot of money to turn down. That would have made it very difficult to turn it down.”
Following spring training, Lester and his camp were under the impression the two sides would not discuss a contract during the season because that was what was agreed between them and the Red Sox, and they didn’t want any distractions for he and his teammates during the year.
“As far as I understood, and that is not coming from my agent, that is from what I understood coming out of everyone’s mouth was that once the season started, I think we had all agreed upon that and it wasn’t just one side saying we don’t negotiate during the season,” Lester said. “I think it was more a group discussion and a group decision that if we weren’t able to come to a conclusion with the contract negotiations before the season started we thought it was in the best interest of everybody to table it ’till the offseason and wait until the season is over and all the distractions of playing, the ups and downs of the season and all that to get after it again.
“Like I said the other day, I don’t know if that is a bad quality or a good quality, but I am kind of hard-headed when it comes to that. If we make a decision one way or the other, just like if we would have made the decision to continue talking I would have expected that to continue. I think we all kind of decided at that time with the distractions of everything going on it wasn’t the right time or place to continue the discussions.”
|12.18.14 at 6:55 am ET|
WEEI.com’s Alex Speier fields your questions in today’s 10 a.m. chat. Line up your questions now . . .
|12.17.14 at 10:13 pm ET|
The Red Sox and Cubs evidently aren’t done battling for players this offseason.
According to a major league source, free agent catcher David Ross was choosing between the Red Sox, Cubs and Padres as of early Wednesday night. Reliever Craig Breslow is also narrowing his potential landing spots, with his agent having had recent discussions with both the Sox and the Cubs.
Ross, who battled injuries and concussions throughout his two-year tenure with the Red Sox, is valued by Chicago in part due to his relationship with newly-acquired ace Jon Lester. The Sox, however, view the 37-year-old as a good complement to projected starter Christian Vazquez.
The fit with San Diego might have gotten more complicated Wednesday night with the Padres’ acquisition of Ryan Hanigan in their three-way trade that also netted San Diego Wil Myers from Tampa Bay. The Padres also figure to have Tim Federowicz, who comes over from the Dodgers in the swap for Matt Kemp.
Breslow, whose $4 million option wasn’t picked up by the Red Sox following the 2014 season, has seen talks with the Sox intensify over the past few days. The lefty recently attended the winter meetings in an effort to paint the picture of what transpired in a down ’14 campaign.
The odds of the Red Sox signing their other free agent reliever, Burke Badenhop, likely diminished with the team’s trade of former Braves sinkerballer Anthony Varvaro Wednesday.
|12.17.14 at 1:57 pm ET|
The Red Sox have added three new starting pitchers. But that’s not going to stop the Cole Hamels’ conversations.
Even with the additions of Rick Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson following Jon Lester‘s jump to the Cubs, there is some thought the Red Sox will still be exploring the market for a proven No. 1 starter. There has been whispers of Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman and Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto.
But perhaps the loudest scuttlebutt regarding the possible acquisition of an ace has involved Hamels.
Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino, a former teammate of Hamels with the Phillies, is all for the idea of his team making such a move.
“I’ll take Cole Hamels in a heartbeat as one of our starters,” Victorino said by phone. “I know he’s been there. I know what kind of guy he is. I know what kind of pitcher he is. When he takes that ball he wants to win. He comes across as this nonchalant guy, or laid back. But when it’s time to go, Cole Hamels is one of the most prepared, hard-working guys I’ve been around.”
Hamels (who does list the Red Sox as one of the teams on his no-trade list) went on MLB Network Radio over the weekend and expressed his desire to join a winner, saying, “For whatever city is going after winning, I think that could definitely change every perspective and every desire, because that trumps everything — winning.”
Acquiring Hamels, however, figures to be a feat for any interested team.
If the Red Sox were to make a move on the soon-to-be 31-year-old lefty, it would not only presumably cost a few of the team’s top prospects, but because of the no-trade issue the Sox would likely be forced to pick up the $20 million option on Hamels’ deal. In all, the club would be committing $110 million over five years.
As far as Victorino is concerned, the payout would be worth it.
“I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want to put him in a Red Sox uniform if it’s possible,” the outfielder said. “To me the biggest thing, being around long enough, if ever I’m in a position to build a winning team, I don’t understand why people fixate on the word ‘prospect.’ People get fixated on prospects. Well, this guy has all the upside in the world. Has Cole Hamels done it? Yes. So why not go get Cole Hamels at whatever expense is needed. Do you want to keep some of the farm system? Yes, I understand that. Part of an organization comes from within. The Lester’s, the Pedroia’s, the Papelbon’s, the guys who were brought up through the system, got a few championships, and then unfortunately as times goes on guys move. I agree 100 percent it’s important to have a good minor league system. I agree with that. Some of these prospects who are being thrown around, who knows if they are going to be that guy.”
|12.17.14 at 12:33 pm ET|
The Red Sox announced Wednesday that they have acquired right-handed pitcher Anthony Varvaro from the Braves, sending minor league right-hander Aaron Kurcz and cash to Atlanta. Varvaro had been designated for assignment Monday.
A five-year MLB veteran, the 30-year-old Varvaro went 3-3 with a 2.63 ERA in 2014, holding opponents to a .228 batting average. In 61 relief appearances Varvaro had a career-high 50 strikeouts vs. just 13 walks. He also set career marks for walks per nine innings (2.1) and hits per nine innings (7.6).
Kurcz, acquired from the Cubs in 2012 as compensation for Theo Epstein, pitched in Double-A Portland this past season, going 3-2 with a 2.14 ERA, 54 strikeouts and 22 walks in 34 games.
|12.15.14 at 7:35 pm ET|
The Red Sox announced they they’ve received shortstop Marco Hernandez from the Cubs as the player to be named later in the deal that sent left-hander Felix Doubront to the Cubs on July 30. Hernandez, who turned 22 in September, spent the year with High-A Daytona in the Florida State League, hitting .270 with a .315 OBP, .351 slugging mark, three homers and 22 steals (in 30 attempts). Signed out of the Dominican in 2009, Hernandez has spent most of his career at shortstop, while also getting some exposure to second base, a handful of games at third and one in right.
The left-handed hitter (who abandoned switch-hitting last season) is described as a better hitter from the left side (he hit .288/.334/.387 against right-handed pitchers and .227/.267/.266 against lefties). An evaluator described him as a good athlete who is a plus defender at shortstop who can fly, but his skills as a hitter lag behind his defense, giving him the upside of a superutility player.
Doubront, who turned 27 in October, went 2-4 with a 6.07 ERA for the Red Sox in 59 1/3 innings, losing a spot in the rotation and expressing dismay with the idea of a bullpen role. After being dealt to the Cubs, he went 2-1 with a 3.98 ERA in four starts.
|12.15.14 at 2:50 pm ET|
Jon Lester, at the press conference introducing him with the Cubs upon the completion of his six-year, $155 million deal, said that the Red Sox‘ decision to trade him to the A’s at the July 31 deadline (along with Jonny Gomes in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes) did impact his view of the free agent process. Lester said that it became easier to imagine changing organizations once he experienced success with a new club. (After going 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA in 21 starts with the Red Sox, Lester went 6-4 with a 2.35 ERA in 11 starts for the A’s.)
“I think so,” Lester told reporters of whether being traded impacted his approach to free agency. “We were traded. That was the unknown of going to a whole different coast, a whole different organization, a whole different philosophy. I think going there prepared us for this time. I think if we finished out the year in Boston and you get down to this decision, I think it would be a lot harder. Not to say it wasn’t hard as it was, but that broke that barrier of, ‘I wonder if I can play for another team.’ I think we answered those questions.”
Still, Lester acknowledged that he agonized over the decision-making process, particularly the final determination about whether to return to Chicago, return to Boston (which offered a six-year, $135 million deal) or consider the interest of West Coast suitors (most prominently the Giants). He fielded countless calls from teammate Dustin Pedroia (among others) before coming to terms with his decision.
“I kind of describe the process in two different forms. I think when you’re sitting there meeting with people, we got to come to Chicago, meet with these guys, enjoy dinner. We had some other teams that came into our house, meet with those people. I think that’s kind of the fun, exciting time. You get to hear different philosophies. You get to meet different people that you probably won’t get to be around. And then you have kind of the second phase where you have to sit down and make a decision. That part, for us, was not fun,” Lester said at the press conference. “That was a lot of phone calls, a lot of minutes sitting down and thinking about what we were going to do. But as far as the decision-making, we made it literally hours before it was probably announced. Just sitting down with these guys, sitting down with my wife, trying to iron it out, it came down to that final moment where we just put our fist down, said, ‘This is it. This is where we’re going to go. This is where we feel the most comfortable.’ We’re not people that are going to put one foot in the pool. We’re going to dive in. That’s what we did.
|12.13.14 at 1:34 pm ET|
Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino joined Mustard & Johnson Saturday at Fenway Park during Christmas at Fenway to discuss the Jon Lester contract negotiations and what went wrong, as well as other Red Sox matters. To hear the interview, visit the Mustard & Johnson audio on demand page.
Much has been made of the reported 4-year/$70 million contract the Red Sox offered Lester during spring training last season. Lucchino went into the reasoning behind that offer, and to the Red Sox it was only viewed as a starting point, as the organization wanted to have conversations following that offer.
“We did make a number of efforts to reignite negotiations and I think as Ben has said, we went in just to get the process rolling and we came up with a number — Josh Beckett had signed for $68 million for four years and that was the largest number for a pitcher we had ever given to a non-free agent,” Lucchino said. “We thought that was a principle place to start and that was all that it was perceived to be. For whatever combination of reasons there was a reluctance on the part of…”
“I think we all were surprised,” Lucchino added of the reluctance of the Lester camp to continue negotiating. “Matters of this type are shared along John [Henry], Tom [Werner] and Ben [Cherington] and myself and other folks in the baseball operations department. To a man, we were surprised we didn’t get into a sequential negotiation.”
Lucchino was also asked if he regrets what took place last spring, and he admitted he does because of the final result.
“I think the short answer has to be yes because we didn’t get the job done,” he said. “Our job was to get Jon Lester signed and to make him a long-term member of the Red Sox organization. This is a results oriented business. Finishing second is not our business plan. I wish it had developed differently. I don’t think it does us much good now to replay each step along the way. We felt when we started that we were beginning a negotiation would take place fairly intensively through spring training and perhaps into the season, but certainly through spring training, and that didn’t happen.”
Lester reportedly signed with the Cubs for six years and $155 million with a vesting option for a seventh year. The Red Sox have openly been reluctant to give out long-term deals of late, and that was something the organization was faced with during the Lester negotiations.
“We have to have one eye on the present and one eye on the future,” Lucchino said. “I would tend to think most baseball fans understandably focus on the next year, the next season. One of Ben Cherington’s jobs is, in fact it is a job for all of us in the senior leadership of the Red Sox, is to keep one eye on what is around the corner — the next couple of years, not right now. John Henry is a brilliant analyst. He’s also an imperialist. He looks and he sees what’s happened and puts it together and sees a track record that is less than encouraging with long-term deals in general. He’s not the only one that has that view.”
|12.12.14 at 10:34 pm ET|
It’s been a busy week for the Red Sox, as with a free agent signing and two trades the team has added three starting pitchers.
Maybe just as important for the organization, they didn’t have to dive too deep into their pool of young talented pitchers to do so, as they gave up Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and a minor leaguer to acquire Wade Miley, and Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson and a minor leaguer to get Rick Porcello.
General manager Ben Cherington is satisfied with the rotation as it stands now, as well as the young arms up and coming behind them.
“If you look past the five guys you pencil in the rotation right now, we still feel like we have a good six or seven young pitchers beyond that who are all capable of being very good major league pitchers, and many of them major league starters in the not so distant future,” Cherington said on a conference call Friday night. “Of course we don’t know exactly what date that will happen on. It is certainly possible one or two of them could get a look in a bullpen role if the opportunity is there. We’ve been able to acquire the three starters that we have this week while still maintaining really what we consider the top end of our young pitching and still have what we think his really good young pitching depth besides the five guys that will likely open the season in the rotation.”
De La Rosa and Webster were both acquired from the Dodgers in the 2012 blockbuster deal with the Dodgers. The two pitchers showed flashes of being able to have success in the majors, but were too inconsistent.
|12.12.14 at 9:59 pm ET|
After a few days of it first being reported, the Red Sox‘ trade with the Diamondbacks became official on Friday.
The Red Sox acquired All-Star left-handed pitcher Wade Miley from the Diamondbacks in exchange for right-handed pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster and minor league infielder Raymel Flores.
Miley, 28, was the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day starter last season, and in 2012 was a NL All-Star, finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting to Bryce Harper. The left-hander wasn’t completely surprised by the trade and is looking forward to coming to Boston.
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Miley said on a conference call Friday night. “I kind of had some thoughts earlier, I talked to my agent a couple of times and he said there might be something in the works. Really didn’t know what it was, but everything kind of went down. It was a little hectic, but it’s a great opportunity and I am looking forward to this next chapter.”
General manager Ben Cherington said Miley was one of the team’s targets since the season ended, and they had been in discussions with the Diamondbacks even before the GM meetings last month.
“Given Arizona’s situation we thought it would be possible they would listen, not certain at all, so we checked in,” Cherington said on Friday’s conference call. “A series of conversations going back to even before the GM meetings, then during the GM meetings and then since then a lot of back and forth, a lot of hot and cold. There were times when we talked it might be possible and then there were times when it seemed to go away. Fortunately it came back to us this week.”
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