What Jon Lester to the Chicago Cubs means for the Cincinnati Reds


Business has officially picked up at the MLB Winter Meetings. In the wee hours of the morning, free agent ace Jon Lester is no longer a free agent after all, inking a massive 6-year/$155 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.

This deal means so much more to the Redlegs than just a team in their division snatching up arguably the best player on the market. This will also have an impact on discussions they’re likely to have in the coming days (cough, cough, the Boston Red Sox) and discussions they’ll have next winter with their current ace, Johnny Cueto.

In the immediate future, the Chicago Cubs have made themselves contenders. On top of snagging Lester yesterday, they dealt for catcher Miguel Montero and earlier in the week, inked Jason Hammel to a deal. Combine all this with the hiring of former Tampa Bay Rays guru/manager, Joe Maddon, and some places have been so outlandish to say that they have the Cubbies winning the division, and we shutter to think, heading to the World Series.

With Lester declaring his allegiance, the balance of power in the National League Central division definitely shifted. The Cubs are no longer in rebuilding mode; they’re here to win—now.

Losing out on the Lester sweepstakes was his old team, whom he had won two World Series rings with, the Boston Red Sox. For a team coming off a World Series less than 14 months ago, their club is in shambles. They spent a whole lot of money already this off-season to renovate their scuffling offense with signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, but their rotation still remains a major question mark. The only “aces” left on the market are Max Scherzer and James Shields, who are going to command more than a pretty penny or two. This means the Sox will have to explore options beyond free agency.

This seems like a slam-dunk, home-run, match-made-in-heaven type of deal. The Redlegs have pitching to spare (kind of) and the Red Sox have outfielders to spare. There have already been trade discussions involving Yoenis Cespedes and his possibly acquisition by the Reds. Much like 4/5ths of their starting rotation, Cespedes is on the final year of his deal. What the club will need to decide is whom they want for one season; would they be able to give up a year of Mike Leake or Mat Latos in order to acquire Cespedes? With the Lester domino having fallen, expect discussions to heat up—quickly.

Last but certainly not least, Johnny Cueto can’t help but grin at the deal Lester just signed. Homer Bailey signed into the $100 million category last off-season, which set the minimum balance for what the Reds will have to offer their ace. Where Cueto’s dollar value will fall is somewhere right along with Lester’s.

It’s become common knowledge that there isn’t much of a chance the Reds re-sign both Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto. If they even make it through this season in tact with the club, 2015 will be the final ride. Barring something unforeseen, the Reds should be able to get at least one of their aces back on another inflated contract, but that very well may mean saying good-bye to the other three men hitting free agency. But, with the influx of young arms, ranging from Robert Stephenson, Michael Lorenzen, Raisel Iglesias and Tony Cingrani, that are close to being Major League ready, maybe paying Cueto (or Latos) and letting the others walk is the way to go.