As we near next week's Winter Meetings in San Diego, Jon Lester's market seems to be picking up, as the left-hander met with the San Francisco Giants on Monday, according to ESPN's Buster Olney. The 30-year-old has also received (or is expected to receive) contract offers in excess of $130 million from the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, per CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
After losing Pablo Sandoval to the Red Sox, the Giants now find themselves with some extra in their pockets, which could enable them to make an offer in the ballpark of what Boston and Chicago are reportedly willing to spend. Giants' officials met with Lester today in Atlanta, where Lester resides. Manager Bruce Bochy was also on hand for the meeting, as was Tim Hudson, who also lives in Atlanta and is said to be close with Lester.
If the Giants miss out on Lester, Heyman suggests that the team could pursue Max Scherzer, though he would certainly cost more and the club would have to surrender a draft pick.
The Cubs and Red Sox seem to maintain their status as the resounding favorites to land Lester. In a tweet today, Buster Olney even handicapped the race as "1. Cubs 2. Red Sox 3. Others." Per Heyman, both teams have already made six-year offers to Lester, with the Cubs supposedly bidding $138 million. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have shown a willingness to go to $130 million, after starting at around $110-120 million at the beginning of the offseason.
While Heyman also notes that the Braves placed a bid (albeit significantly lower) on Lester, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves have not made an offer, as they did not feel it would be competitive enough. This would seem to suggest that Atlanta is out of the running for Lester, leaving the Cubs, Red Sox, and Giants as the three primary suitors.
The St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, and Toronto Blue Jays have also all been reported to be interested to a lesser degree. According to the New York Daily News' Andy Martino, Lester is likely to make a decision in the next week or so.