With a decision looming from prized free agent southpaw Jon Lester, the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs appear to be the frontrunners, per CBS Sports' Jon Heyman and FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. While reports earlier today had indicated that the Boston Red Sox had dropped out of the race, it appears that they too are still in on Lester. The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers have also been mentioned as peripheral candidates to land Lester, though neither is considered a serious contender at this point.
Per ESPN's Buster Olney, the 30-year-old is expected to make a decision either tonight or tomorrow, with WEEI.com's Rob Bradford adding that an announcement is more likely to come on Tuesday. At this point, Lester seems to be holding out in hopes of receiving an offer that tops $150 million or extends for seven years, however, Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com reports that bidding has currently peaked at around six-years and $140 million. Lester is believed to have already received at least two offers in excess of $130 million.
Earlier today, reports indicated that Lester had narrowed his options down to the Cubs and Giants, however, that has since been refuted by numerous sources, including Lester's agent, Seth Levinson, who called the reports "absolutely untrue", though that could just be posturing on his part. Red Sox manager John Farrell also stated Monday that the organization is "still confident" that they can sign Lester, who they have a "strong desire to bring him back."
The Yankees may also still be lurking in the Lester sweepstakes, as ESPN's Jerry Crasnick heard from multiple sources that New York was not to be counted out. However, Heyman has since countered that there is "no real evidence" linking the two parties.
No matter which organization Lester joins, his signing will undoubtedly pave the way for the rest of this winter's free agent starting pitching market, as numerous dominoes should fall immediately in his wake. For key arms such as James Shields and Max Scherzer, getting Lester off the market should be crucial in creating their own.