BOSTON -- It could turn out to be much ado about nothing, or it could be a game-changer. If the Los Angeles Dodgers really want Jon Lester, who would join a long line of outstanding left-handers -- Koufax, Kershaw, Valenzuela, Osteen, Reuss -- who have pitched in Chavez Ravine, there's little to suggest they will fail in that quest.
The Dodgers spent $35 million on a new president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman. They have a baseball operations brain trust that makes the Joint Chiefs look understaffed. They already have $322 million committed to the first four pitchers in their starting rotation. They haven't won a World Series since 1988, which is also the last time they played in one. They have an $8.35 billion, 25-year TV deal.
Lester has said he wants to pitch where he and his family are most comfortable, that it will be a "stupid amount" of money regardless of where he pitches, and that an extra $20 million isn't going to impact his lifestyle. The Dodgers can offer all the comforts of a SoCal lifestyle, 45,000 fans a night at Dodger Stadium, a chance to contend every year, and that extra $20 million or more.
How do the Red Sox compete with that?
Sox principal owner John W. Henry said last week that much of their presentation to Lester focused on an opportunity to carve for himself a special place in team history, one that could separate him from all the other great Sox pitchers of the past. By averaging 13 wins over the next six seasons, Lester would become the winningest pitcher in club history, passing Roger Clemens and Tim Wakefield. Even after a two-month interlude in Oakland, if he signs with Boston he could end up pitching for the Red Sox every season of his career, from the time he was drafted in the second round in 2002 until the day he retires. Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Luis Tiant, and Babe Ruth can't make that claim. In a community that defines itself in part by its support of cancer research and treatment, Lester wears the badge of cancer survivor and is an inspiration to many.
Oh, and after badly misreading the impact their initial offer last March (four years and $70 million) would have on Lester and his agents, the Levinson brothers, the Sox have shown a willingness to go to six years. And having just given Hanley Ramirez a contract averaging $22 million per year, they surely are prepared to go at least that high with Lester, which would still be below the average annual value of starters Cole Hamels ($24 million) and CC Sabathia ($24 million).
WEEI.com first reported that the Dodgers had "serious" interest in Lester. Whether that is tantamount to going all-in, or even materializes into an offer, remains to be seen. The endgame is nearing. It's all win-win for Lester. For the Sox, the contingency plans take on added importance.