The Dodgers have reportedly made a late entry into the Jon Lester sweepstakes, pushing hard for the free agent left-handed pitcher, per a report from Rob Bradford and Alex Speier of WEEI.
But multiple sources connected to teams interested in Lester have told WEEI.com that the Dodgers are a late entrant into the sweepstakes, with both serious interest in the top left-hander on the market and the resources to make a hard, late charge.
One industry source was under the impression that the Dodgers had already entered the bidding with an offer to Lester, while another characterized the Dodgers as poised to play a role similar to the one made by the Yankees in December 2008, when New York swooped in late to sign Mark Teixeira away from other interested bidders with a high bid of eight years and $180 million. A third noted of the Dodgers’ potential interest that Lester "could help any team looking to win championships," the unquestioned bar for a Los Angeles team that is after its first title since 1988.
The play for Lester makes sense if the Dodgers plan to acquire a starting pitcher, especially a premium one. Currently, the Dodgers' fifth starter on the depth chart is either Mike Bolsinger or Zach Lee. Of the top three starters on the market, along with Max Scherzer and James Shields, Lester is the only one who wouldn't cost the Dodgers a draft pick, since Lester was traded midseason.
Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi was instrumental in that Lester trade on July 31 to Oakland, where Zaidi was then the assistant general manager.
Zaidi on Tuesday night, after the Dodgers made their sixth minor trade in a 16-day span, said the smaller, depth-building moves were a necessary precursor to potentially bigger deals down the road this offseason.
"Having that base of depth gives you the opportunity to make more aggressive, needle-moving moves as the offseason goes on," Zaidi said.
While Lester wouldn't cost a draft pick, he will cost a lot of money, perhaps eclipsing the $147 million over six years the Dodgers gave Zack Greinke two years ago. There are reported offers of $130 million over six years from the Red Sox, and $138 million over six years from the Cubs. One of the sources told Bradford and Speier they would be "shocked if the Dodgers weren't the highest bidder for Lester's services.
Lester had his best season to date in 2014, going 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA in 32 starts for the Red Sox and A's, with 220 strikeouts and just 48 walks in 219⅔ innings. Lester, who turns 31 in January, has eclipsed 200 innings in six of the last seven years, averaging 207 innings and 32 starts per year during that span, plus 192 strikeouts per year and a 124 ERA+.
Adding Lester to a rotation that already boasts Clayton Kershaw, Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu would give the Dodgers the best starting staff in baseball. A deal for Lester would also be insurance of sorts for Greinke, who can opt out of his contract after the 2015 season.
You want a needle-moving deal by the Dodgers? Lester would certainly qualify.