Jon Lester’s free agent tour continued Thursday with a stop in Atlanta and a meeting with the Braves. According to report from David O’Brien, Jon Lester had lunch met with the Braves’ brass. Atlanta looked into trading for Lester at the deadline last July and scouted him extensively according to Gordon Edes before he was shipped to Oakland.
The Braves pitched him the team’s timeline for being “a consistent championship contender by the time they move into a new ballpark in 2017.” O’Brien explained the Braves would likely need Lester to sign for a “little less” than what he might receive from the Cubs or Red Sox, and backload his contract “to coincide with their move to a new ballpark.”
The Braves did not make an offer to Jon Lester during Thursday’s meeting.
Alex Anthopoulos was asked if the Blue Jays had any offers out to free agents during an interview Thursday on Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio). Anthopoulos told Casey Stern and Jim Bowden there had not been any offers made in the last 24 hours as reported. The Jays are having conversations with a few teams about possible trades, but that is all right now. Anthopoulos added the team’s policy of not signing a free agent for longer than five years will stay in place and he did not anticipating it changing.
The Cubs filed its reserve roster prior to Thursday’s deadline with just one addition, RHP C.J. Edwards. The 40-man roster officially stands at 39 players. The Tribune asked if the Cubs left a spot open on the 40-man for Jon Lester?
Cole Hamels, James Shields and Jason Hammel
The Cubs and Red Sox are not only focused on Jon Lester and Cole Hamels as an option if they lose out on Lester, but Jason Hammel is also on the Red Sox radar.
According to a report from Nick Cafardo, the Sox “had a brief conversation with the agents of right hander Jason Hammel.”
There is mutual interest between the Cubs and Hammel for a reunion. Hammel is believed to be at the top of the second-tier pitching options for the Cubs. But it might take a three-year commitment to sign Hammel. He is reportedly looking at the three-year, $30 million contract Scott Feldman received from the Astros last winter as his baseline.
The Sox remain interested in James Shields, who was thought to be a back-up plan for the Cubs if Lester signed elsewhere.
The Cubs are one of several teams, including the Red Sox, that have been connected to free agent RHP Justin Masterson. A report from the Sun-Times last week even pointed to the Cubs working on a low-risk deal with Masterson.
In an interview Thursday on MLB Network Radio, Masterson said he is looking for a short-term contract, a one or two year deal. “The money is the money,” Masterson said. “I just want to go out and have fun again.”
Justin Masterson said he’s healthy and ready to show last season’s struggles were due to rib cage, knee and shoulder injuries.
Spring Training in Las Vegas
When the Cubs announced the tentative Spring Training schedule in early October, there was a notable omission, the annual trip to Las Vegas.
Mark Gonzales found out from a source with the A’s that the Cubs will play a pair of split squad games against Oakland at Cashman Field in Las Vegas on March 13-14. The Cubs have not announced the two additional practice games. The Cubs have participated in ‘Big League Weekend’ in Las Vegas every spring since 2005.
The Cubs are expected to add more dates and games to the exhibition season.
Jon Heyman reported Thursday former Cubs’ back-up backstop, Dioner Navarro would like to be traded. The Blue Jays think Navarro can get enough at bats as Russell Martin’s backup and as a designated hitter.
Dioner Navarro, as was the case last winter, wants a full-time job. The Jays owe Navarro $5 million for 2015 and “about three teams” are showing interest in trading for him.
News, Notes and Rumors
Outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig announced during the Owners Meetings in Kansas City, a five-year contract for new commissioner Rob Manfred was unanimously approved.
According to Buster Olney, several players, including Rick Porcello, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann, Mat Latos and Mike Leake, that would be free agents after next season are available in the trade market.
Jason Mastrodonato reported the Red Sox are “very serious” in their pursuit of Andrew Miller, even with Boston trying to sign Jon Lester and Pablo Sandoval.
The New York media thinks the Cubs are how the Mets will fill its hole at shortstop. Ken Davidoff reported Thursday, a trade between the Cubs and Mets “appears less likely at this juncture” because the Cubs “prefer to hang onto their shortstop surplus.” And the Mets ability to acquire Starlin Castro in a trade for a pitcher not named Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom “seems unrealistic.”
The Blue Jays are among the long list of teams pursuing Torii Hunter according to Ken Rosenthal. Toronto views Hunter as an option to replace Melky Cabrera. LaVelle Neal reported the Twins “have a real shot to sign Hunter, but there are several suitors.”
Jim Bowden’s 10 bold predictions: Jon Lester re-signs with the Red Sox; Marlins sign James Shields; Mets trade for one of the Mariners shortstops (Brad Miller or Chris Taylor); Mariners sign Hanley Ramirez; Justin Upton is not traded; Pablo Sandoval re-signs with the Giants; Diamondbacks sign Kenta Maeda; Marlon Byrd is traded to the Reds; Royals sign Ervin Santana and the A’s sign Asdrubal Cabrera.
FanGraphs took a look at Russell Martin and big contracts to older catchers.
20 of the 39 players currently on the Cubs 40-man roster has played for the Tennessee Smokies.
One to keep an eye on … The Rays designated Jose Molina for assignment prior to Thursday night’s deadline for teams to file its reserve rosters. Molina is owed a lot of money ($2.75 million) in the last season of his two-year contract, so he will not be traded and will clear waivers. Offensively, Jose Molina has very little to offer (.178/.230/.187 in 80 games) but he is known as an excellent receiver (pitch framing, not throwing), and with his familiarity with Joe Maddon, could the Cubs bring in Molina to help Welington Castillo. Maybe a minor league deal with an invite to camp if he’s not ready to retire?
And last, but not certainly not least, Robert Feder broke the news Thursday afternoon that Tribune Media was shutting down 87.7 The Game at the first of the year.
This Day In Cubstory
2012 – Cubs released Bryan LaHair
2008 – Cubs signed free agent Jason Waddell
1990 – Cubs signed free agent Danny Jackson
1972 – Cubs traded Bill North to the A’s for Bob Locker
1967 – Cubs traded Bob Raudman and cash to the Indians for Dick Radatz
1959 – Cubs acquired Dick Gernert from the Red Sox for Dave Hillman and Jim Marshall
1958 – Mike Mason, born
1954 – Alan Hargesheimer, born
1934 – Cubs traded Bud Tinning, Dick Ward and cash to the Cardinals for Tex Caleton
1933 – Cubs acquired Chuck Klein from the Phillies for Harvey Hendrick, Ted Kleinhans, Mark Koenig and $65,000
1905 – Freddie Lindstrom, born