Jon Lester is a free agent and there are currently three teams rumored to be the front runners interested in his services – the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox. While all three teams have an immediate need for Lester’s left arm, alas at the end there can only be one.
Before diving into each team individually, lets take a look at where their respective pitching rotations ranked last season:
|Atlanta Braves||3.38 (5th)||79 (16th)||13 (13th)||5 (10th)|
|Boston Red Sox||4.01 (23rd)||71 (25th)||7 (24th)||3 (15th)|
|Chicago Cubs||3.91 (21st)||73 (23rd)||11 (17th)||1 (28th)|
Lester’s 2014 stats:
Of the three teams apparently in the race for Lester, the Braves had the best rotation in 2014. With rumors circulating that Atlanta is to meet with Lester on Thursday, it is obvious that the Braves are serious about adding depth to their staff. With Ervin Santana a free agent, the Braves have an immediate need to fill, despite the addition of Shelby Miller in the Jason Heyward trade.
With Lester, the Braves would immediately add a top of the line starter to slot between Julio Teheran and Mike Minor. Perhaps the greatest attribute Lester would bring to Atlanta is his veteran leadership – adding something the young Braves rotation is short on…experience.
For the veteran lefty, joining the Braves would put him in an interesting position as the team is not in the middle of a total rebuild and could once again contend in the NL East as soon as 2015. At age 30, one would assume that Lester would prefer to join a team with a chance of contending for a championship sooner rather than later – and of these three teams, the Braves may be the most likely.
Boston Red Sox
As soon as the Red Sox traded Lester to the Oakland Athletics back in July, many of us looked ahead to this offseason. It is well-known that Lester loved Boston and the organization and fans loved him back. So a return to the only team he had known seemed like a strong possibility.
Four months later, Boston still seems like a strong contender as to where Lester will sign. Even with Lester and John Lackey anchoring their rotation for three-quarters of the 2014 season, the Boston rotation still struggled (as you can see in the stats above). Re-inserting Lester behind Clay Buchholz would provide more stability to a rotation that is not only young, but completely unproven after their ace. While the Red Sox are hoping Joe Kelly reverts back to his 2013 self when he went 10-5 with a 2.69 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The addition of Lester would give the Red Sox some breathing room to allow for growth within their rotation, knowing that their top two spots were locked down. For a team that is full of youthful arms, having Lester to once again help set a standard within the staff would be ideal.
Now this scenario is an interesting one to consider. The Cubs are thisclose to reaching the next level of their rebuilding process. In fact, the hiring of Joe Maddon lends one to believe that the Cubs might feel as though it is time to move past the “rebuilding” stage. Adding Lester would be yet another step to show they are serious about winning now.
Of these three teams, the Cubs arguably need Lester the most. Jake Arrieta currently sits atop the Chicago pitching depth chart, and rightfully so after he posted a 10-5 record with a 2.53 ERA last season. After Arrieta, the Cubs’ rotation is a bit of a question mark – Travis Wood struggled last season and Kyle Hendricks is talented but still young. And don’t forget, Edwin Jackson is still on the roster thanks to his albatross of a contract.
Inserting Lester into this rotation could do wonders for the Cubs. Lester would immediately bring stability to the youthful movement that is sweeping Chicago. In fact, the Cubs were likely hoping to land Lester to anchor the rotation and Russell Martin to provide leadership for the core position players (before Toronto swooped in to get him).The addition of Lester could be the key piece to the transition of the Cubs from “rebuilding” to “legitimate contender”.
For Lester, the question now becomes whether or not he is ready to help cultivate a team full of players who were likely in middle school when his career began back in 2006. The money may do a lot to sway his decision, but nonetheless joining the Cubs would put a lot of pressure directly on his shoulders. He would be the man looked upon to lead the young team.
However, with Maddon at the helm, it may be too enticing of a situation to pass up.
Cover Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
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