By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) Although the Chicago Cubs are in a battle of big spending and wills for free agent left-hander Jon Lester, they continue to add important little cogs as they move forward. As the Dodgers and other big-market teams continue to drive up the market for this offseason’s premier lefty, the Cubs will stand their ground and hope the allure of a group of friends in their front office and a great city win out.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein had his pre-winter meetings chat with the media Friday, and he expressed his thoughts on the offseason pursuit of better players. Though Epstein wouldn’t directly talk about the Lester sweepstakes, he was clear on the reality of his club’ss situation.
Free agency’s important,” Epstein said Friday, speaking generally and not about any player. “You have to be aggressive if you hope to get something done in this current landscape where a lot of teams have money and good players are at a premium. There’s more demand than there is supply for elite players. There’s no doubt about that.”
Epstein knows the market place has driven the money for Lester to $25 million per season and at least six years at this point. But the Cubs have little wiggle room if the price goes much higher than $155 million.
“You also have to maintain some sense of discipline and limits and long-term perspective,” Epstein said. “If you go into free agency thinking you’re one player away and you need any one player at all costs, you’re probably going to end up getting burned. You’re probably going to end up with an organization that’s not as healthy as it can be years down the line.
“Now that said, there are players who are important, and there’s a time to be very aggressive and a time to know what you want and do everything within reason to get it. And you just have to balance those interests
“Free agency is not for the faint of heart.”
On Friday, Epstein also brought on board former Cubs pitcher and fan favorite Ryan Dempster as an assistant to the front office. Dempster has already placed a call to Lester — his former teammate with the Red Sox in 2013 — on behalf of the Cubs.
“He is an incredible leader,” Dempster said of Lester. “He is not the most vocal guy as far as the day he is pitching, but very prepared and I was extremely impressed by his work ethic. Here I was the veteran of 16 years in the league, and I was watching him, feeling I was not doing enough. He would be a guy, if we can add him that could step in front of the team and other guys can watch and learn from him. He is a tremendous pitcher and human being. Jon would be a great addition to any team.”
With added teams making their interest known, the Lester free agent bidding could now go into next week’s winter meetings in San Diego. The Red Sox, Giants, Braves and Dodgers are also known to have interest.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.