(CBS) It’s no secret that the Cubs are in the market for an ace pitcher this offseason or next, with executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer openly admitting the organization’s imbalance between the surplus of elite position players/prospects and a dearth of top-of-the-rotation arms.
It’s also a fact that former Red Sox and current A’s left-hander Jon Lester is set to be one of the biggest names on the free agent market this offseason.
So now, naturally, we can really let the speculation begin.
On Saturday, Fox Sports baseball insider Ken Rosenthal reported that many of Lester’s former teammates believe he’ll end up in a Cubs uniform next season.
While Lester hasn’t addressed the topic yet, this idea gained more traction late last week when the Cubs placed a claim on Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels on revocable waivers. While the teams couldn’t work out a trade, it showed Chicago was willing to throw some money around, as Hamels has four years and around $96 million left on his deal.
“Their willingness to take on his remaining money was telling,” Rosenthal said in a video posted on Fox Sports.
“Some of Lester’s former teammates, meanwhile, already project he’ll end up with the Cubs, reuniting with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. The Cubs, by claiming Hamels, show that they have the money to make such a move happen.”
Along with Lester, Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer and Royals right-hander James Shields are set to be the other two aces on the market. Scherzer turned down a six-year, $144-million from Detroit winter, so he’ll presumably be looking for more money than that.
Given the explosion on the market for pitchers, it’s widely assumed Lester will command more than $100-million deal as well. He reportedly balked at Boston’s four-year offer between $70 million and $80 million.
Shields will be 33 in December, so he might not get quite as much money as the 30-year-old Lester and 30-year-old Scherzer, but he’ll still command a large deal.
If the Cubs don’t land an ace pitcher this offseason, Tigers left-hander David Price is set to become a free agent after the 2015 season, and he’s openly expressed an interest in Chicago before.
Time and again, Cubs executives have said they’ll be careful to match up the baseball operation side’s pursuit of big-name free agents with increased revenue from the business side. Now, it seems that day is fast approaching.