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12/10 Lester says goodbye and hello

Jon Lester said goodbye to Red Sox fans on his Twitter account early Wednesday. Here are his two posts:

“Extremely difficult decision for me and my family but we love the outcome and couldn’t be more excited to join the Cubs organization! #NVRQT”

“To Red Sox Nation, I understand the disappointment. Boston will always have a big place in my heart and we’ll always consider y’all family!”

The “NVRQT” is a reference to Lester’s involvement with the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. Lester was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 21. He survived, and is dedicated to help others, encouraging children to never quit.

– Carrie Muskat

12/9 Maddon: We won the baseball lottery

As far as Joe Maddon is concerned, the Cubs won the lottery by getting Jon Lester. The next step is to win the World Series.

Late Tuesday, Lester picked the Cubs over his former team, the Red Sox, and agreed to a six-year, $155 million contract, the largest in franchise history.

FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal was first to report the deal. The Cubs would not confirm it, but Maddon did, holding court in the lobby of the Manchester Grand Hyatt after dinner in downtown San Diego.

“This definitely propels us into Plan A, which is kind of neat,” said Maddon, who received a text message from Theo Epstein with the news. “It’s a big day for us, moving forward. It really brings a lot of different factors together. It’s very exciting.”

Maddon was eager to hear why Lester picked the Cubs.

“It would have a lot to do with the familiarity with Theo and the guys who were there [in Boston],” Maddon said. “I think he sees the potential with the group and the direction we’re headed. I want to believe that had a lot to do with it, and I’m curious to see what he says.”

Epstein, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer and Lester all won a World Series in Boston. Could they do that with the Cubs?

“It definitely makes it more believable to everybody else in that room,” Maddon said of the Cubs players. “I’ll stand up and make the same speech regardless but when you have it backed up by that particular kind of presence, it adds to it. I can’t deny any of that. Having people like that in the room definitely helps other guys believe this is possible.”

If Lester and the Cubs were to win a World Series, which would be the franchise’s first since 1908, then the left-hander would be the first pitcher with championship rings from both the Cubs and Red Sox. Think about that for a moment. Lester probably did, Maddon said.

“He’s been there before, he understands what it feels like,” Maddon said. “I want to believe he could foresee the same thing happening here. From my perspective it’s exciting to be involved in this moment.”

For Maddon, it’s quite a change after being on the outside looking in as the Yankees and Red Sox were big spenders in the East and he was trying to win with the Rays.

“It’s different,” Maddon said. “I have not been on this side since my days with the Angels when I got an email in Italy that we had signed Vladimir Guerrero. … That’s the last time I was involved in this kind of a moment.”

And the last time he was this excited?

“Let’s see, [it’s when] my grandson was born,” he said. “Giuseppe was born about a year and a half ago. That was the last time.”

Epstein’s only long-term deal since he took over the Cubs was a four-year, $52 million contract he gave Edwin Jackson. Lester’s puts him in the upper echelon regarding pitcher salaries, second only to Clayton Kershaw in terms of average annual value.

“It’s not often you get to win the lottery,” Maddon said. “We won the baseball lottery so far this year. Now it’s up to us to put it into effect. It’s all theory right now and we have to make it real. You need pieces like this to make it real.”

– Carrie Muskat

12/9 Report: Lester to Cubs

FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reports Jon Lester is going to the Cubs, signing a six-year, $155 million contract.

12/9 It’s down to two …

Jon Lester told the Giants Tuesday night that they were no longer in contention. It’s now down to the Cubs vs. Red Sox to acquire the free agent left-hander.

“I hope we win it,” Joe Maddon said Tuesday of the sweepstakes.

Does Theo Epstein feel the Cubs are in the mix?

“As Joe said, we hope to win the sweepstakes,” Epstein said. “That’s well put.”

– Carrie Muskat

12/9 Maddon on Lester talks: “I hope we win it”

What’s Joe Maddon’s take on the Jon Lester sweepstakes?

“I hope we win it,” Maddon said Tuesday.

Speaking to the media at the Winter Meetings, Maddon said he had a phone conversation with Lester in November, part of the Cubs recruiting process. They discussed hunting, the AL East, past games, and how much respect Maddon has for the left-hander.

“I always admired his work from a distance,” Maddon said. “This is a guy who, when the game was really big, he was always at his best. To possibly get this opportunity to work with him for the first time is very exciting. I honest to God don’t know where this is at right now.”

Maddon does acknowledge that it will be tough for Lester to leave Boston.

“Having been with the Red Sox his whole career and all the wonderful success he’s had there, you would think it would be a difficult situation,” Maddon said. “I can’t speak for that, personally. As an opponent, this guy was always at his best when it seemed to matter most. You want to get to him early because if you permit him to settle, he’s definitely going to be there in the seventh or eighth innings.

“You can’t have any respect for a Major League baseball player than we do for him right now. For us to be able to pull this off would be pretty outstanding.”

Did Maddon have any idea as to how long it will be before Lester makes a decision?

“I’m sure it’s not going to be much longer,” Maddon said. “I really have no information or knowledge about that. You just wait for the white smoke.”

– Carrie Muskat

12/9 Cubs vs Red Sox for Lester?

Jon Lester’s imminent decision of where he will take his talents remained a dominant topic of conversation during Day 2 of the Winter Meetings, and the Red Sox and Cubs could be emerging as the two finalists. This, after Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans pointed a more pessimistic picture of where his club stands with regard to Lester.

“I feel we’re probably in the back seat of this deal right now,” Evans said. “I feel like there are some other guys driving this, and probably we’re staying in it but I’m not sure how strongly we’re a consideration considering the other options.”

Evans felt that “heart strings” might pull the lefty to another franchise despite the fact the Giants have won the World Series three times in the last five years.

That line of thinking would point to the Red Sox and Cubs, given their personal connections to Lester.

According to FOXsports.com, Lester has multiple offers in the six-year, $150-million range, and perhaps one offer of seven years. The Dodgers are another suitor that has been mentioned, but they haven’t confirmed their level of interest.

“I think that ultimately Jon has a tough decision to make,” said Evans. “You have a player who’s very passionate about his teammates in Boston, he’s very passionate about the relationships he has with maybe two clubs, including the Cubs, so therefore I think it makes it a harder decision. We at some level may be in the back seat right now. That’s understandable because there are some good options for him.”

It was originally believed that Lester would make a decision by Tuesday. But it could stretch into Wednesday, as ownership from some of the respective clubs are in the process of approving final bids.

Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod – three top executives for the Cubs – were in Boston’s front office during the majority of Lester’s time there. Lester won the World Series with the Red Sox in 2007 and ’13. Though winning a third ring in Boston would be a thrill, Lester could be part of something historic if he could be part of the Cubs winning it all for the first time since 1908.

The past two offseasons, the Cubs have pursued pitchers with the intention of flipping them at the Trade Deadline for young prospects. They’ve taken a different approach this winter, which began with the hiring of Joe Maddon as manager. The goal is to add multiple starting pitchers in hopes of being competitive in the National League Central.

“We played well at the end of the year,” Hoyer said Monday. “Our young talent has gotten a lot of publicity, for better or worse. I don’t think it’s hard to talk about, ‘Hey, we think we’re about to be very good and good for a long time.’”

12/9 Cubs acquire Montero

Miguel Montero may be the answer to the Cubs’ wish list for a left-handed hitting catcher to complement Welington Castillo. Major League sources confirmed the Cubs will acquire Montero from the Diamondbacks for two players Tuesday. According to reports, the D-Backs will receive Minor Leaguers Jeferson Mejia and Zack Godley. The deal is contingent upon Montero passing a physical.

Montero, 31, batted .243 in 136 games last season with the D-Backs, hitting 13 home runs and driving in 72 runs. He’s owed $40 million over the next three years, and it’s projected the Cubs would assume most, if not all, of that money with low level prospects going to the D-Backs.

Castillo did hit a career-high 13 home runs this past season but batted .237, including a .216 average against right-handed pitchers. He batted .301 against lefties, and the addition of a left-handed hitting catcher would definitely help the Cubs lineup.

Mejia, 20, was 2-4 in 12 games last season in the Arizona Rookie League, his second professional season, giving up 11 earned runs over 40 innings. Godley, 24, was the Cubs’ 10th round pick in 2013, out of Tennessee, and was a combined 4-3 with a 3.09 ERA at Class A Kane County and high A Daytona last season, striking out 77 over 55 1/3 innings.

– Carrie Muskat

12/9 Jon Lester update

Will Jon Lester make his decision today? According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Lester may keep baseball waiting until Wednesday. There were reports that the free agent left-hander was going to announce his pick on Tuesday. The Cubs, Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers are in the mix for Lester, who has been the hot topic at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. On Monday, Boston manager John Farrell said he was optimistic the Red Sox would bring Lester back. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reports Lester has to decide between multiple six and seven year offers, which are expected to top $150 million. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the Giants are more optimistic now about possibly acquiring Lester than before. The Cubs, who met with Lester in mid November in Chicago, are keeping quiet about their negotiations.

– Carrie Muskat

12/8 Winter meetings notebook

* Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said Monday they try to ignore the rapid-fire rumors generated at the Winter Meetings.

“We try to condition ourselves as much as we can, especially this week of all weeks, to ignore that,” Hoyer said. “You don’t know what’s information and what’s misinformation. I’d be lying to say we don’t read it because you do want to sift through it and see what’s going on. To rely on it or let your emotions go up and down based on what’s happening down [in the lobby] doesn’t make a lot of sense. We’ve all seen people be massively wrong on stuff like that.”

That didn’t stop others from talking about Jon Lester, including Athletics GM Billy Beane, who acquired the pitcher at the Trade Deadline.

“Like Arthur Miller being briefly married to Marilyn Monroe, that’s who we are,” Beane said. “We’re the Arthur Miller in Lester’s career.”

Lester has been the hot topic at the Winter Meetings and the left-hander could make a decision by Tuesday, which would allow the rest of baseball the opportunity to move on. Hoyer, though, didn’t think Lester was holding up any other transactions.

“People talk about that, but at the same time, there’s a lot of players available,” Hoyer said. “The idea that one or two or three people hold up a market, I don’t necessarily believe in that. … You’ve seen enough deals to indicate there’s not a logjam.”

* Think about it: The Cubs have reportedly signed Jason Hammel to a two-year contract on the same day the Athletics traded Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox. On July 4, the Cubs dealt Hammel and Samardzija to the A’s.

* Cubs prospect Kris Bryant was picking up more awards on Monday, capping his stellar 2014 season. Hoyer wasn’t worried that Bryant would not be motivated this offseason.

“He’s a guy, his work ethic, his make up is so good, I’m sure he’s going to build off what he did last year, which is what any competitor would do,” Hoyer said.

Expect to see Bryant in the outfield in Spring Training. Manager Joe Maddon likes versatile players and Anthony Rizzo is probably the only one on the Cubs roster who won’t be asked to play multiple positions.

“We’re lucky,” Hoyer said. “A lot of our guys can move around. … I think Joe does a really good job of convincing guys and explaining to guys why it’s beneficial. He had success with that in Tampa and I think he’ll have success with that with us.”

Bryant did play center field in college.

– Carrie Muskat

12/8 Cubs interested in Montero?

According to reports, the Cubs are talking to the Diamondbacks about a possible trade for catcher Miguel Montero. A left-handed hitter, Montero, 31, batted .243 in 136 games last season with the D-Backs, hitting 13 home runs and driving in 72 runs.

Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan said Montero is owed $40 million over the next three years, and that the Cubs would assume most, if not all, of that money with low level prospects going to the D-Backs.

FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal says the Cubs and D-Backs will talk again Monday about a possible deal.

The Cubs are in the market for a catcher to complement Welington Castillo, and would like to add a left-handed bat.

MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert confirmed the two teams were talking. The Cubs had no comment.

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