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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.

12/8 Bryant ready for 2015

On Monday, Kris Bryant picked up what he thinks was his last award for the 2014 season. It’s time to move on, he said, and hopefully that means a spot in the Cubs’ 2015 Opening Day lineup. Bryant was among those honored at a luncheon for top Minor League players, scouts and team personnel from 2014. The Cubs prospect led the Minors this past season with 43 home runs at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa combined, batting .325 with 110 RBIs.

“This is perfect — I can put last season in the past and look forward to the future,” Bryant said Monday in San Diego prior to the luncheon. “It was a good season and a lot to build off of. I’m pretty confident. But it’s in the past now, and I have to get ready for next year.”

Next year could include a spot on the Cubs. The Cubs do have Luis Valbuena and Mike Olt as third base options but president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Bryant, 22, will be a big part of next year’s team. The third baseman knows he’ll have to show up in Spring Training and earn the job.

“That’s definitely been a goal of mine to play Major League baseball,” Bryant said. “To hear that coming from [Epstein] is definitely an honor and something I’ve been working on my whole life. It doesn’t stop here. I don’t want to just play in the big leagues — I want to excel and be the best I can be. I’m looking forward to this season more than any season in the past.”

He built an indoor batting cage at his Las Vegas home, and started hitting about a week ago. His father has been throwing batting practice but Bryant also acquired a pitching machine.

“He doesn’t throw hard enough to simulate a 95 mile an hour fastball,” Bryant said of his dad.

After spending half of the 2014 season at Iowa, Bryant knows he’s one step away from the big leagues.

“One more step and I’m there,” he said. “[I’m going to] keep working hard and have a level head and stay humble — that’s a big part of what’s gotten me this far. That can’t change.”

– Carrie Muskat

12/8 Jon Lester update

Free agent lefty Jon Lester is likely to pick his new team by Tuesday and appears poised to become the first major free-agent signing at this year’s Winter Meetings, MLB.com has confirmed. Lester’s top suitors are the Red Sox, Cubs, Giants and Dodgers, but there are believed to be at least one or two other teams who have a strong interest.

There were reports Monday that Lester had narrowed his decision to two teams, the Cubs and Giants. However, Lester’s agent told MLB.com that the Red Sox were still very much involved.

ESPN.com and WEEI.com were first to report that Lester will make a decision by Tuesday.

Lester’s future has been a topic of conversation ever since January, when he indicated he would take a hometown discount to stay with the Red Sox, as long as the offer was competitive. But after the Red Sox offered Lester a four-year, $70-million deal back in the spring, negotiations ended shortly thereafter.

It is believed that it will take at least six years to sign Lester. Reports have surfaced of offers that have reached the $140-million range, but there has been very little in the way of specifics.

The Cubs have also been actively pursuing Lester throughout the free-agency periods. Theo Epstein has strong ties with Lester and they spent 10 seasons in the Boston organization together. Chicago is believed to be the only city Lester flew to during his free-agency recruiting period. Other suitors have all met with Lester near his Atlanta home.

12/8 Lester decision

According to multiple reports. Jon Lester could announce his decision on Tuesday. WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reported a decision will come at that time. Lester is being courted by the Red Sox, Cubs, Giants and Dodgers.

12/8 Cubs and Jason Hammel

Most of the focus on the Cubs’ pursuit of free agents has focused on Jon Lester but there are reports that Jason Hammel could be close to returning to Wrigley Field. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported the Cubs are finalizing a deal to bring Hammel back, and a source Monday confirmed that the Cubs are nearing completion of a deal. According to Heyman, Hammel was looking for a three-year deal.

Hammel signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Cubs in February this year, and went 8-5 in 17 starts before he was traded, along with Jeff Samardzija, to the Athletics on July 4.

The Cubs are still in the mix for Lester, who was being courted by the Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers as well. The Giants met with Seth Levinson, one of Lester’s agents, on Sunday, and Boston owner John Henry met with Lester at his Atlanta area home on Saturday.

– Carrie Muskat

12/6 Winter ball update

Luis Valbuena hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning Friday to help Lara beat Caracas, 5-4, in Venezuelan winter league play. It was Valbuena’s fifth game, and he’s batting .211 so far.

Junior Lake hit a double and drove in two runs in Estrellas’ 3-1 win over Aguilas in the Dominican Republic.

Arismendy Alcantara hit a home run, his third, in Licey’s 3-0 win over Toros in the Dominican. Alcantara is batting .326 this winter.

John Andreoli hit a double in San Juan’s 8-2 loss to Mayaguez in Puerto Rico.

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