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12/4 Jon Lester and the Dodgers

There is no timetable for Jon Lester to make a decision, but there apparently is a new team in the race. The Dodgers are a late entry into the Lester sweepstakes. The free agent pitcher has already met with the Red Sox, Cubs, Braves and Giants, but the Braves have reportedly bowed out, saying Lester is the right pitcher for them but just not now. The Dodgers can afford Lester, taking advantage of their lucrative television deal. The Cubs reportedly have the largest offer on the table at six years, $138 million. On Wednesday, sources said Lester was considering his options.

– Carrie Muskat

12/3 Baez to play Winter Ball

If you’re in Puerto Rico later this month, you could see Cubs infielder Javier Baez in a game. Baez will start playing winter league ball on Dec. 11 for Santurce, according to Cubs officials. The infielder, who turned 22 on Monday, finished the season with the Cubs, and batted .169 in 52 games with nine home runs and 95 strikeouts. He began the year at Triple-A Iowa, where he batted .260 in 104 games with 23 home runs, 24 doubles, and 80 RBIs.

– Carrie Muskat

12/3 Tree lighting at Wrigley

The Cubs will host a tree-lighting ceremony Thursday to celebrate the holidays and conclude the team’s yearlong 100 Gifts of Service. The ceremony will be at 5:30 p.m. CT outside the Cubs Store at the northwest corner of Clark and Addison. The tree was donated by Christy Webber Landscapes.

Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins will be joined by Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, Cubs Charities chair Laura Ricketts, president of business operations Crane Kenney and representatives from many of the organizations that benefited from the team’s 100 Gifts of Service this year.

Fans and Wrigley Field neighbors are invited to participate in a holiday toy drive to benefit children at Lawrence Hall Youth Services. New, unwrapped toys may be donated at Thursday’s ceremony or during the Cubs Store’s business hours — 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT — leading up to the event.

12/3 Winter ball update

Christian Villanueva was 4-for-4, including a grand slam, for Obregon in a 16-7 loss Tuesday night to Culiacan in Mexico Winter League play. The third baseman was batting .273 with six home runs.

Arismendy Alcantara was 2-for-5 with a double in Licey’s 5-3 win over Aguilas in the Dominican Republic. Alcantara is batting .325 this winter.

In Puerto Rico, John Andreoli was 2-for-4 with a solo home run and scored two runs in the Senadores 6-2 win over Carolina.

12/2 Cubs roster moves

The Cubs non-tendered catcher John Baker and left-handed reliever Wesley Wright on Tuesday, reducing the 40-man roster to 37. The Cubs did tender contracts to eight of the 10 arbitration eligible players, including right-handed pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop, left-handed pitchers Felix Doubront and Travis Wood, catcher Welington Castillo, infielder Luis Valbuena, and outfielders Chris Coghlan and Justin Ruggiano.

Overall, 30 players from the Cubs’ 40-man roster were tendered 2015 contracts. That includes the eight arbitration-eligible players listed and 22 players not yet eligible for arbitration. Wright and Baker are now free agents.

With Wright gone, the only left-handed pitchers on the Cubs’ 40-man roster are Doubront, Wood, Tsuyoshi Wada, Joseph Ortiz, Eric Jokisch, and Zac Rosscup. Besides Castillo, Rafael Lopez is the only other catcher on the Cubs’ 40-man roster. projects arbitration salaries, and estimated Wood could make $5.5 million in 2015; Arrieta $4.1 million; Castillo $2.1 million; Coghlan $1.4 million; Doubront $1.3 million; Ruggiano $2.5 million; Strop $2.4 million; and Valbuena $3.1 million.

– Carrie Muskat

12/2 Congrats to Iowa’s Sam Bernabe

Triple-A Iowa general manager Sam Bernabe was named Minor League executive of the year by Baseball America, and will be honored next week at the baseball Winter Meetings. Bernabe will be presented with the award during a special ceremony hosted by Baseball America in San Diego on Dec. 9.

Bernabe has worked for the Iowa Cubs for 31 seasons, and became president and part-owner of the club in 1999. In addition to his duties overseeing the day to day operations of the ballclub, Bernabe is chairman of the Board of Trustees of Minor League Baseball as the Pacific Coast League representative. He also serves on the joint Triple-A Marketing Committee, the National Association of Professional Baseball Marketing Committee, and the Professional Baseball Playing Rules Committee. Bernabe was named the American Association Executive of the Year in 1993, the PCL Executive of the Year in 2008, and the John H. Johnson President’s Award winner from Minor League Baseball in 2002.

12/2 Jon Lester update

Will Jon Lester decide to go west and join the defending World Series champions? Will he return to Boston to pitch for the Red Sox? Or, will he pick the Cubs and rejoin Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer?

Lester met Monday in Atlanta with a delegation from the Giants, who pitched a return to the Bay area where the left-hander played in the second half of last season with the Athletics.

The Giants, Red Sox and Cubs can afford Lester, who was 16-11 with a career best 2.46 ERA in 32 starts last season for the Red Sox and Athletics. According to reports, the Cubs and Red Sox have made six-year offers to Lester worth $138 million and $130 million, respectively.

Lester, who turns 31 on Jan. 7, also met with the Braves, but they have reportedly dropped out of the bidding for the free agent pitcher, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

All the Cubs can do now is wait. Lester has two World Series rings from his days with the Red Sox, including one from 2007 when Epstein and Hoyer were in Boston’s front office. The lefty could be a key part of the Cubs’ bid to end a 108-year championship drought.

– Carrie Muskat

12/2 Arbitration deadline

The Cubs were expected to tender contracts to all of their arbitration eligible players Tuesday, including Travis Wood, who is coming off a tough 2014 season. Wood is one of 10 arbitration eligible players on the Cubs roster. The list also includes Jake Arrieta, John Baker, Welington Castillo, Chris Coghlan, Felix Doubront, Justin Ruggiano, Pedro Strop, Luis Valbuena and Wesley Wright.

Wood, 27, had an All-Star season in 2013, compiling a 3.11 ERA in 32 starts and reaching 200 innings for the first time in his career. But this past season, he went 8-13 with a 5.03 ERA in 31 starts, and gave up career highs in hits (190) and walks (76). In 2013, opponents batted .222 off Wood and the batting average of balls in play was .251; last season, teams batted .277 off the lefty and the BAPIP was .324.

– Carrie Muskat

12/1 Cubs to talk to Martinez

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Cubs have asked for and received permission to talk to Dave Martinez, who was Joe Maddon’s bench coach. And, if the Cubs were to hire Martinez, it would not require any compensation. Martinez was dropped from consideration for the Rays managerial opening, and then told the team last week he was leaving. The Cubs would have to make room on the coaching staff for Martinez.

– Carrie Muskat

12/1 Lester to visit Giants

The Cubs will have to wait a little longer for a decision from free agent Jon Lester. The pitcher was to meet with the Giants Monday, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney. The Giants would be the fourth team Lester has talked to, joining the Red Sox, Cubs and Braves. There were early reports that Lester also would meet with the Cardinals but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports GM John Mozeliak has no plans to bring the lefty to St. Louis for a visit. Mozeliak described the Cardinals’ interest more as due diligence.

“I feel we still have depth,” Mozeliak told the Post-Dispatch. “We don’t have to do something now.”

Lester was in Chicago on Nov. 18 to meet with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and tour Wrigley Field.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Cubs have offered Lester $138 million over six years. Heyman says the Red Sox are willing to go up to $130 million.

– Carrie Muskat


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