By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) The bidding war for free agent left-hander Jon Lester continues to progress at its own pace, and industry sources have put the price near six years and $140 million. That price may still be a tad short when Lester makes his decision sometime in the next week to 10 days. The threshold of $25 million per season and seven years may be approached before this free market competition ends.
Lester has at least four suitors — the Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers and Cubs — and possibly as many as five for his services. The Cubs have been in the mix the whole way. They have done what they can to convince the pitcher that they are the team of the future he should sign with.
“The Cubs from (owner Tom Ricketts) all the way down to the clubhouse guys have bent over backwards to make Jon feel like Chicago is the place to be,” said Ryan Dempster, Lester’s former teammate and who is now a front-office assistant for the Cubs. “If he doesn’t take their offer ,it won ‘t be like they had failed. A few teams will be disappointed at the end. He must decide what is right for him and his family in the future.”
The Cubs are looking at the entire free agent market for pitching, a list that could include former Cub Jason Hammel, Brandon McCarthy and Justin Masterson. Those pitchers will more than likely be seeking two- and three-year deals. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Friday they will explore both the trade and free agent avenues to fill other needs, such as better on -base percentage from hitters. The Cubs’ .300 on-base average was one of the lowest in baseball in 2014.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.