Rounding Third: Cubs get their ace

( – It’s been 106 years since the Chicago Cubs have won a
World Series.

They may have taken a step toward ending that drought late Tuesday night, as
the Cubs reportedly agreed to a 6-year, $155 million deal with left-hander Jon
Lester, reuniting him with former general manager Theo Epstein.

After missing out on Masahiro Tankaka last winter, there was no way the Cubs
were going to miss out on another ace. Especially Lester. They were the one
team in this whole process that never wavered. There were times we heard the
Boston Red Sox were out, we had heard the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles
Dodgers were no longer options. Whether it was true or not, we never heard
that about the Cubs. The only thing we ever heard on them was that they were
the frontrunners to get him.

And apparently they were.

It just made so much sense. With all due respect to Max Scherzer, Lester was
the best pitcher on the market. He’s a bulldog and he wins in October. If you
are a team that is on the cusp of getting ready to compete, there is no better
pitcher to have at the top of your rotation than Lester.

The Cubs are coming. You’d be out of your mind to say the club is going to
win a World Series, because, well, you know, after all they are the Cubs, but
they are a heck of a lot closer now than they were yesterday.

Lester was in the midst of another magnificent season for the Red Sox in 2014,
but with the team out of contention and his pending free agent status, Boston
sent him to the Oakland Athletics at the non-waiver trade deadline for slugger
Yoenis Cespedes.

Oakland may have struggled after the trade, but Lester certainly wasn’t to
blame, as he went 6-4 with a 2.35 ERA and was a key reason why the Athletics
reached the American League Wild Card Game.

Overall, Lester was 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA last season.

Lester’s real value, though, comes in the postseason, where he has established
himself as one of the best big game pitchers in baseball. So, as the Cubs eye
their first World Series title since 1908, they now have an ace who has won
all three of his starts in the Fall Classic and has only surrendered one run
in 21 innings of those contests.

As big a winner as the Cubs are in all this, there may not be a team happier
than the Philadelphia Phillies.

With Lester off the board, Boston desperately needs a front of the line
starter. Scherzer doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for them. If they weren’t
going to go much higher money wise to bring Lester back, I can’t imagine them
getting into bed with Scherzer, who reportedly wants north of $200 million.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, though. like the New York
Yankees, you can never really count the BoSox out on anything, but the guy
they are going to target is Phillies’ lefty Cole Hamels.

The Red Sox were linked to Hamels right at the start of the offseason and they
probably could have had him for a little more than a song and a dance. But
everything has now changed. The Phillies know the Red Sox are desperate and
now Boston general manager Ben Cherington is going to have to give up a
player, or two, that he did not want to.

Xander Bogaerts, Blake Swihart, Mookie Betts. They are all in play now. And
don’t forget Yoenis Cespedes either. Two of those guys may have to go in a
deal to get it done.

And Philadelphia should hold out for as much as it can.

That’s what makes the Oakland Athletics’ deal of Jeff Samardzija even more
puzzling. We all knew they were going to deal him, but how about they wait
until Lester signs and maybe build up some sort of bidding war with the teams
that missed out on him.

I just don’t know what the A’s are doing. They got nowhere near enough for
Josh Donaldson, they traded an All-Star first baseman in Brandon Moss for a
25- year-old infielder who has never played above Double-A and that was all
after they signed Billy Butler to a $30 million deal.

Oh and the shortstop they got from the White Sox in the Samardzija deal is far
less of a prospect than the one they surrendered in the original Samardzija

But Billy Beane is a genius, so we just have to nod our heads and accept
what he’s doing, right?

Think about what you thought of the A’s the day after the Lester trade. Now
think about where they are today.

Let’s put it this way, they are lucky the Houston Astros are in the AL West.
But, if you have been paying attention, they may not be the doormat they have
been in recent years.

Lester, though, was the first domino to fall at these Winter Meetings. Maybe
now we’ll start to see some movement.