On Jon Lester: Early this morning (put an emphasis to the early) the Cubs became the winners of the Jon Lester sweepstakes, rewarding his previous performance with a 6 year, $155 million dollar contract. He will make an average of about $25.8 million per year over the span of the contract, and at the age of 31; he is heading towards the end of his prime. Many will argue that he is just on the outside of the elite core of pitchers in baseball, but does tend to have an increased value given his past postseason performance (despite giving up a lead in the Wild Card game this past year to a hungry Royals team).
I see this move as a statement by the Cubs that they won't be allowing other teams to take advantage of them for much longer. However, Lester will be heading into his mid-30's by the time their mega prospects Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Addison Russell reach their prime. By that time, Lester will have to make adjustments as he ages, and while I personally can see him being capable of this, it is still left to be proven. Obviously there is a past connection between Cubs GM Theo Epstein and Lester, as Epstein was once the Red Sox GM prior to taking over Chicago's front office.
Lester should bring a lot of intangibles to this Cubs team, and as their younger playoffs develop, he will be an unquestioned leader of the pitching staff, even if he isn't necessarily the best in their arsenal at that point. I don't see the Cubs suddenly becoming contenders with this move, but they are on the right path. They also traded for Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero, who will provide a great presence in the clubhouse and will be able to manage a core of young pitchers as he's done very well over the past 9 years in Arizona. To win now, the Cubs need more than this, but I think they should prepare to make a serious run 2 or 3 years from now (I suggest trading Starlin Castro by next year to make the team more well rounded prior to making that extra playoff push). So while almost $26 million is in my opinion a bit much for how he profiles to perform up until his age 37 season, the Cubs used Lester to show that they aren't messing around, and I like that.
Note: I give a lot of respect and props to Lester for taking this challenge with a young, unproven Cubs team. If he can help them back to a World Series, he will be part of baseball lore forever, if his past postseason performances haven't done that already. Sure, I could never pass up $26 million per year, but it does sound like he had a higher offer from a Giants team that has won 3 of the past 5 World Series. Best of luck in Chicago, Jon.
On the Yankees 3 Team Deal for Didi Gregorius: This move was made almost a week ago now and I'm still torn on it. I have been on the bandwagon of Yankee fans who have wanted them to become a younger team for years now, and this would certainly fulfill such a concept. What we don't forget is that a majority of Yankees fans are not very sympathetic, and that many will jump to criticize this move (especially if Shane Greene maintains his 2014 performance in Detroit). Gregorius is unproven to me despite two full seasons in the big leagues, but he is regarded as a good defender that can't hit left handed pitching all that well. Some have recently said he doesn't have the mentality to play in New York, and given the task of replacing Jeter, he could choke even further.
But here's the thing: He's 24 years old. Rarely in New York do we get to see a position player receive opportunities at this young of an age, and it's honestly refreshing that they didn't chase after Jed Lowrie, Stephen Drew, or Asdrubal Cabrera and decided to instead take a shot in the dark. Brian Cashman has been interested in Gregorius on and off over the past year, and initially talks last year would have cost the Yankees Brett Gardner. Instead, they only surrendered Shane Greene in the move, who did have an impressive second half last year, but given his pre 2014 status as a relatively unknown prospect, he could be a fluke. That said, pitchers do make adjustments, and he could wind up becoming a consistent performer in a very good Tigers rotation next year. Nonetheless, I'd make this trade and take this chance 10 times out of 10 if I were Cashman, and I'm glad he went against his usual strategy to bring a low cost, high potential player into the mix.
On the Yankees passing up on David Robertson for Andrew Miller: Most Yankees fans were really hard pressed to see Robertson leave the fold for the White Sox this offseason. I am not one of those particular fans. Hold on though, before I get criticized: I do realize how well of a job he did filling Mariano Rivera's shoes last season and I do love seeing players stay on board with their homegrown organizations. I've even met David a few years ago at a local card show, and he instantly made me a fan of his. I have numerous pieces of his in my collection, and also have gotten an autograph back from him TTM. He's a great person, great teammate as far as we've heard, and he knows how to pitch the late innings better than most people in baseball. But as soon as he asked for Jonathan Papelbon money this offseason, I had a strange feeling that the Yankees would still pass up on him.
Advanced pitching statistics have noticed a decline in recent seasons, and even I could see him regressing with my own eyes. After all, I was at a game last season that Robertson blew in the 9th after throwing a meatball to the Astros' Chris Carter. He's still only 29 years old, but more often than not, closers don't seem to repeat success well into their 30's (with several exceptions, Rivera of course). The main reason I didn't necessarily mind losing Robby this offseason was because of Dellin Betances' electric performance last season in the Yankee bullpen. I would absolutely love to see him takes the reins as the new closer for the Bronx Bombers in 2015. And even with the signing of Andrew Miller, I still believe he will end up earning that role next season, with Miller occasionally receiving save opportunities but mostly setting up.
That brings me to my next point: Andrew Miller. Miller is the same age as Robertson, and far less consistent, but had a dominant 2014 split between the Red Sox and Orioles. He pitched tremendously out of the bullpen for Baltimore in the playoffs, and has a lot of experience pitching in the AL East. He came at a "discount" compared to Robertson, although the catch is that he doesn't have any closing experience. But WHO CARES? Next season, instead of being tied down to Robertson's role in the 9th, Girardi could mix and match the 9th inning depending on the batters. He does prefer to set roles to pitchers though, and I think I'd take Miller-Betances over Betances-Robertson. The move isn't an upgrade, but the Yankees gain a first round pick in the draft because Miller was traded in the middle of this past season from Boston to Baltimore and Robertson was given a qualifying offer by the team attached to a draft pick.
David Robertson is by no means a bad pitcher, and I wish him all the best in Chicago. The White Sox have made several big moves this offseason now, and I wouldn't be surprised if they contended next season with Jeff Samardzija and Chris Sale at the top of their rotation. I think he'll thrive in that environment, even with his statistical decline. The Yankees were of course capable of adding both pitchers to their bullpen, but I'd rather they use the money elsewhere because I don't see the bullpen as a weakness of theirs compared to other positions (second base, third base, fourth outfielder, and especially the starting rotation). They saved $10 million which they could use towards holding onto Chase Headley or possibly if they choose to make a run for Max Scherzer (which sounds more unlikely by the day, but I can dream, right?).
Whew, well that was a lot of fun. Let me know what you all think about the topics I've discussed, and please feel free to offer input on what I could do better. If you guys aren't interested in this being a part of the blog, let me know as well, I know there are plenty of sources out there that may be more reliable but I like to chime in once in a while and provide my take on the state of my favorite game in the world.
In other news, tomorrow will be my last full day here at my college before I come home for winter break, and eventually transfer next semester! I hope to be on here more regularly over the next month, but certainly no promises as always. Take care guys, and for all of you in the northeast, be safe on the roads!