Every offseason it's the same thing. A player maybe isn't getting the offers they expect to on the free agent market, and boom, suddenly a mystery team appears out of nowhere, bringing the threat of new competition and new money into the fray. Sometimes the mystery team turns out to be legit -- teams swoop in unheard of constantly and end up signing major free agents, with nary a rumor attached to them beforehand. Sometimes the mystery team is 100 percent a ploy to make teams believe that they're about to get leapfrogged in their pursuit of a free agent. When Peter Gammons says three general managers believe there is a mystery team involved in the Jon Lester sweepstakes all of a sudden, I'm inclined to believe we're dealing with the former situation.
Is Jon Lester worth $150 million to the Red Sox?
With word out once again that Jon Lester is looking for around $150 million in a new deal, it's time to figure out where the Red Sox should draw the line.
Outside of that it's Gammons doing this reporting -- while acknowledging that the whole mystery team thing does have its laughable side -- this is easy to believe just because Lester is in a position where a team can come in at the eleventh hour and come away with a new and shiny left-handed prize. The Red Sox have reportedly offered $130 million but are willing to go higher, the Braves are probably out of it because Lester is too expensive, the Cubs top the list at $138 million, and the Giants haven't made an offer just yet so far as anyone outside of their meeting knows. Lester is expecting $150 million, and that itself is a relative bargain for his services as has been discussed in this space, so there is room for someone to come in now that they've seen what the opposition have brought to this fight.
Who could it be, though? It could be the Yankees, who are known for this sort of out-of-nowhere major transaction. It could be the Cardinals, who are saying they were mostly performing due diligence on Lester, but in reality have the resources for him if they want to go that route. Maybe i's the Nationals, who were linked to Max Scherzer earlier this winter with the idea being they would deal one of the expiring deals of Jordan Zimmermann or Doug Fister to make room? Perhaps the Tigers, who still want Scherzer but could likely sign Lester for close to the $144 million that their right-hander rejected? It could be any of those teams, or someone completely different. The only thing we know for sure is that the team needs to, according to Gammons, work with the Pediatric Cancer Foundation if they plan on bringing Lester to them. Not all of the 30 teams can work Lester into their budget, but any of the 30 could start a relationship with that foundation if it resulted in Jon Lester atop their rotation.
Lester is expected to make a decision before the winter meetings, and this will likely start a chain reaction for the rest of the non-Scherzer starters. Regardless of where Lester signs, it will also allow the Red Sox to get going on the trade market, since they'll be aware of what they need and how much they have to spend on it. He's the first elite piece of the offseason expected to sign, and now he's got a mystery team interested in him.