Is Braves’ pursuit of Jon Lester realistic?

Jon Lester would help Braves but is his signing realistic? (Ezra Shaw, Getty Images)

Jon Lester would help Braves but is his signing realistic? (Ezra Shaw, Getty Images)

Jon Lester would help Braves but is his signing realistic? (Ezra Shaw, Getty Images)

After upsetting a significant segment of the fan base with his trade of Jason Heyward to St. Louis, Braves president John Hart would ease concerns about the competitiveness of the team moving forward if he’s able to lure free agent pitcher Jon Lester to Atlanta.

It could happen. But this falls under the category of: I’ll believe it when I see it.

First, here are the two factors that favor Lester coming to the Braves:

1.) They really want him. He would anchor a starting rotation with Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Mike Minor and the recently acquired Shelby Miller, and certainly diminish the importance on the potential return of starters Kris Medlen and/or Brandon Beachy, both coming off Tommy John surgery.

2.) Location, location. Lester makes his offseason home in the Atlanta area. He values his family time. Playing for the Braves would make life a lot easier for him. Easy. Perfect. Except …

There are two major factors working against the Braves:

1.) Money problems. As David O’Brien reported, Lester will get offers from interested teams in excess of $20 million per season, maybe even as high as $25 million. Even after shedding some salary in the Heyward deal, the Braves are still carrying the fat contracts of B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman, as well as long-term commitments to Teheran and Andrelton Simmons (even if their contracts are considered modest in comparison). The Braves’ payroll also includes $13 million in dead money owed to Dan Uggla. Conceivably, the Braves could heavily back-load Lester’s contract to coincide with their move into their new stadium. The question is whether he would be amenable to that. Also, having been burned by the Uggla and B.J. Upton signings, I doubt Liberty Media and/or CEO Terry McGuirk would easily sign off on another big contract unless Hart reduces payroll in other areas. Which leads me to…

2.) Are the Braves legitimate contenders? Most would say no. They’re coming off a losing season. There are holes in their lineup. The organization is an uncertain transition. Hart has suggested that building for 2017, when the team moves into a new stadium, is more important than building for next season. If that’s the case, why would Lester come here? Furthermore, if Hart has to reduce the payroll to make room for Lester, that would likely mean trading Justin Upton, which would make an already suspect lineup even worse. Even if Hart convinces another team to take B.J. Upton, the Braves will have to take back another player with a similar salary level in trade, or Hart would have to commit to paying some of Upton’s contract. Either way, it’s a financial wash.

Would Lester help the Braves? Of course. But timing isn’t necessarily working in Hart’s favor.

A recent writer’s dozen from the digital jukebox
— AJC: Braves trade Jason Heyward and John Hart just took huge risk
— MyAJC: It makes no sense but Falcons are in first
— AJC: Short takes on Falcons’ win over Panthers
— MyAJC: Dogs have a statement win, now hope for best with Gurley
— AJC: Short takes on Georgia’s win and Gurley
— MyAJC: As hoops open, Tech looks far more ready than Georgia
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Dogs, Jackets cross bridge, Falcons back to normal
— MyAJC: Ladies and gentlemen Georgia vs. Georgia Tech (in basketball, yes now)
— AJC: If Georgia wins out, would it sway playoff committee?
— MyAJC: All eyes are on Gurley (even if you can’t find him)
— AJC: Hart should deal both Uptons and Gattis
— MyAJC: Falcons’ division hopes hinge on beating teams other than Bucs
— AJC: Short takes on Falcons’ win over Tampa Bay
— MyAJC: If Georgia Tech has come together, we’ll find out against Clemson, UGA
— AJC: Short takes on Georgia Tech’s win over N.C. State
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Falcons’ find their penicillin — the Bucs
— MyAJC: Amid Atlanta misery, can Hawks really be shining light?
— AJC: Election Day: Vote to keep or fire coaches (polls)
— MyAJC: Georgia blows it all with inexcusable performance
— AJC: Short takes on Georgia’s stunning loss to Florida
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: No Gurley (oooh, scary); but Dogs over Gators
— AJC: Rules are dumb but that’s no excuse for Todd Gurley
— MyAJC: Mark Richt deserves credit for holding Georgia together
— AJC: NCAA mum but Muschamp expects Gurley to play vs. Florida
— AJC: Will Arthur Blank make move with Mike Smith (and reader poll)?
 

Reader Comments 0

47 comments
BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

Sign Jon Lester and the Cuban Tomas for around 35mil/year for both.Then trade J-up and Minor( around 20 mil for both next year) for a major league min$ 4th- 5th starting pitcher who has alot of potential.Then look at the 15 mil/year they saved on Santana and the salaries would just about equal out.................are you listening John Hart?

theBigWally
theBigWally

Braves getting Lester are about the same odds of the AJC having a decent website.  None.

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Strictly a PR move, nothing more. "Yeah, were the Ted Turner Braves, not the same old nickle and dimers looking for arms on the scrap heap. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain"

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

The JS and BC Braves way appears to be back ,with the pursuit of Lester build a dominant starting rotation and hope middle of the road veteran players can play defense and deliver just enough offense to win close games.But I think the odds of the Braves landing Lester are slim to none.He would likely  be offered 20 to 25 million a year by a team with deep pockets a figure the Braves will not be able to match.

wreckmaniac
wreckmaniac

The old phrase is that you can never have too much pitching but the Braves need to pursue at least 2 solid ( near .300)

bats who can also play daily.  You can get two of those for the same money as one John Lester.  Where they play is almost irrelevant.  There are at least 3-4 "holes", as you accurately mention Jeff, they can fill.

KenDawg72
KenDawg72

The very first thing I thought of when I heard them talking to Lester is that they were trying to deflect the negativity from the trading of Heyward. I think that they knew they were going to upset a lot of people with that trade. I don't think they have a realistic shot at Lester.  It would be nice but I think they are going to go Florida Marlins mode and shed every contract they can in order to build up again in 2017.  I don't really see the purpose in it because I think we are only a player or 2 away.  Sometimes I wish I was a Red Sox or Yankee fan where the economics doesn't play a role in the roster building. Only thing I know for sure is that I am one pissed off Braves fan and I won't be spending my hard earned money on them this year.

reckingball
reckingball

But then again, maybe Uggla will phone the Braves and tell them, that he doesn't think that he ever really EARNED the money that they have already paid him,... and that he thinks, that it would be the same as STEALING if he took the $13million that he is to receive for 2015. 

Then,  perhaps B J Upton would decide that he lost "IT", in 2013, and that he never was really good enough to receive a $75 million dollar - 5 year contract in the first place, that  he is going to retire, and the Braves can keep the rest of the money.

Then the Braves could sign Lester  with all of that freed up money.

After that the Braves would decide not to move to Cobb Co. and instead build a new stadium in Fantasy Land, out of gingerbread and gumdrops.

-sting-
-sting-

is it just smoke? realistic or real is my question? i would fall flat on my face if they were to actively pursue this guy.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

I certainly hope they can get John Lester.  Going 0-162, losing every game by scores of 1-0, 2-0, and 2-1 is more important than going 0-162 losing 15-0 and 9-1.

adirondackdave
adirondackdave

This may or may not have a bearing but...  the LA times reported tonight (Wed.) that Lester has just sold his Boston-area home for just under 2M.    The family continues to live in their Atlanta-area home.  


Whether or not that affects the Braves chances to reel in Lester, if I were a Boston fan I would not be a happy camper right now.

Falcons63
Falcons63

I don't quite get all of the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over the Heyward trade.  Sure... he was a great defensive RFer.  But Bradley's talk of "best defensive player anywhere" is about as over the top as you could be.  In the end, Heyward was a light hitting good defense corner OFer.  All the talk of potential is just that... TALK!  He may turn his swing around and be the next Dave Winfield. Trading "Potential" always brings risk.  Everyone should remember that this is the guy that even Chipper Jones questioned his toughness.  It's something every year!  I think with Heyward what you see is what you get.  He has tremendous tools from a pure physical standpoint... but I honestly don't think that potential is ever going to be realized.  I think he is a guy who mentally is much more comfortable being part of the supporting cast as opposed to the pressure of being a star. I don't know how many times last season I saw him buzzed under his hands with a fastball and then roll over a breaking ball to the 2nd baseman. As far as the .271 avg I can't remember anyone getting so many infield hits and flares to the outfield.  He rarely hit the ball with authority.  He seems to have become a shadow of the guy we heard about back in his first spring training who was hitting tape measure shots with regularity.  In the end I think the Braves will be able to find a much more affordable .271avg. 11hr guy than Heyward.

Wilbo
Wilbo

Please, please, please tell me are the Atlanta Braves and the people who write about them really this incredibly stupid? The organization would have to be absolutely bereft of its senses - or just head over heels in love w losing - to take a bad team w big problems in almost every area of personnel, and throw away big $ (AGAIN!) on bringing in one older overpriced player when 


A. That one player won't make any significant difference in the overall quality of the team

B. Overpaying that player will hugely limit the team's ability to bring in a number of good young players


Thinking the Braves can field a team that could compete for the 2105 World Series is pure unadulterated fantasy. Hoping for 2017 is probably silly as well. The team has so many holes, problems, carry over attitude issues, the only reasonable hope is to admit the team is a complete mess and start over dumping anybody and anything of any value to stock w young players for 2018 or 2019 and beyond.


Bringing in John Lester - I don't care if he lives next door to the new stadium - or any other expensive player is putting lipstick on a pig.

Chop_Chop
Chop_Chop

It isn't realistic unless Jon Lester is bonkers. If that's the case, then I imagine he'll sign a 7-yr, $7 contract and he will be lauded for his love of the game.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

This John Hart truly impresses me - not a DOOSH BAGG like Wren. No, he's a serious baseball man with a plan!

tmc
tmc

There isn't a chance in h_ll the Braves will offer enough money to sign Lester.

The braves brass is so stupid, they don't even know they are getting played by Lester's agent to drive up the price from other clubs because of interest. Lester has lived here for years while playing elsewhere. It's not like it would be anything new...

This is likely his last big contract. You honestly think he's going to take significantly less money to play for a team that is going to be pretty poor the next 2-4 years? If you do, you probably believe BJ Upton will work hard this off season and in spring training with the new hitting instructor to turn things around and have a good year. John Hart believes that, but he might be the only one. 

Brock Gallops
Brock Gallops

I could care less about the fan base that was upset over a guy for much of his time in Atlanta who hit ground balls to 2B but did play stellar D(even did have a awful year a few years ago at that where he looked like a fool). 


The Uggla salary will be removed after this year. 


They could cut more payroll after signing Lester by then not tendering contracts to Medlen and Beachy.  That's $7 million more.


They would trade Upton for pitching prospects that are close to major league ready. 


Hopefully they could work a deal out with the Indians who are shopping Swisher for a similar player(B.Upton) and both players get a fresh start.  We get the better end of the deal with swisher only having one bad year ever and being a switch hitter.


Upton, Medlen, and Beachy gone frees up $21 million to go with the $11 million freed the other day.  Next year Uggla's $13 million come off and we could add another OF bat.  My line up would be


1. Bonifacio(they should resign him) CF

2. Simmons SS

3. Freeman 1B

4. Gattis LF

5. Swisher RF

6. Johnson 3B (he is subject to trade)

7. Bethancourt C

8. 2B/ halfway would be peraza

and a stud rotation even though I'd trade an up & down Minor who reverted back to worst than his rookie season last season.  I'd say at worst, they add 5 more wins but I put them actually competing and will salary to play at the deadline and even more next season. 

Brock Janiak
Brock Janiak

Things that have to go right to sign Lester


1. Somehow someway, the money will have have to be scrapped from somewhere, and it looks like JUpton will be traded to get that money


2. The Braves will have to outbid the Redsox and Cubs... Yes Lester values comfort, but he's proabably the MOST comfortable in Boston, and Chicago is a place he said wouldnt mind playing either.


3. The Braves would have to have a legitment chance of being contenders for Lester to sign. How in the H#LL is that going to happen? The offense was awful last year and now that Heyward, La Stella, and JUpton(to get $ for Lester) are all traded the bad offense gets even worse.... 


Lester will not happen and is just down right crazy to get any ideas. Trade JUpton for a top prospect say Walker or Peterson from the Mariners. Then once the team is ready to contend sign a big ticket free agent. Cueto/Latos/Zimmerman/Fister/Samardjia /Price are younger than Lester and will be available next offseason and Heyward/JUpton/Cespedes/Gordon will all be availble next offseaosn. Now tell me why the heck are we rushing to sign Lester when the team is cleary not ready to contned?


Straight bs

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Well, who is upset over the Heyward trade to begin with?  We only were going to have him for one more year anyway, and to get someone as good as Shelby Miller is a definite plus.  St Louis got a rental and we got two prospects with plus arms.  Walden is unable to stay healthy and with that delivery, he was a Tommy Hanson do over.  I think the Braves learned from Hanson, get rid of them while you can.


If they can find a way to sign Lester, we are back to the good pitching we depend on, add a couple of good bats and a defensive minded CFielder and we should be good to go.


BravoDawg
BravoDawg

Getting Lester would be like acquiring the 2nd coming of Glavine, it would be awesome! Either Gattis or Justin will have to be traded for another starting outfielder & throwing in BJ they would have to eat maybe 10-12 mill per year of the contract, I would trade Gattis. If they sign Lester throw in Minor along with BJ. A starting 4 of Lester, Teheran, Wood, & Miller is pretty stout. Then they will still need a CF, why not re sign Bonafacio? cheap & can still play alot better than BJ fo sho

seminoleking
seminoleking

are the falcons gonna win the superbowl this year??? both questions are in the same neighborhood......lol

58Supersports
58Supersports

MLB hot stove reported:  Lester said, "I'm not going to the highest bidder. I'm going to the place that makes my family happy".  Maybe just maybe that's Atlanta.

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

Yes it is worth pursuing My guess is Beachy and or Medlen will not be back and we need one more reliable starter. 

MikeY1959
MikeY1959

Not offering contracts to Medlen, Venters, and Beachy would free up about $10M as well...Or another option would be to sign Beachy and Medlen to low-risk contracts with incentives.

rundmc
rundmc

Exactly. The money would be there, but there still would be holes. I really like the idea of trading Justin Upton to someone like SEA that has the prospects to get a deal done. Imagine a deal headlined by either Taijuan Walker or 3B super-prospect, DJ Peterson (who I love) with secondary elements: OF Michael Saunders, who has speed and power, and their GM has publicly criticized him to the point of diminishing his value. I would heavily entertain the idea of packing Gattis/Upton together for a better deal, possibly getting Dustin Ackley in a return, which would be an upgrade over Pena/Gosselin. 


Good luck on trying to find a reasonably priced CF. That's tough. Seems like everyone wants that. I do like the idea of Torii Hunter as a corner OF in the 2-hole, ahead of Freeman. If we had a OF of Saunders, Hunter, BJ Upton, we'd have the OBP and speed with some power. Chris Johnson would presumably be at 3B (with Peterson) in the minors for now and Ackley at 2B. Still some holes, but a great starting point. Getting rid of Justin Upton/Gattis would help both financially and be able to distance ourselves from the swing-first line-up of the last couple of years. It'd also help if our new hitting coach spends extra time on Simmons/Freeman to try and curb that. 

THEBITTERTRUTH
THEBITTERTRUTH

You got rid of  JH and Walden + 11 million $. Trade Justin Upton and that  is another +14 million $. There is your 25 million dollars to sign Lester. Plus get something back for J Upton that you can trade for a serviceable right fielder, put Gaddis in left, and try to sign a reasonably priced center fielder. This assumes letting BJ walk. Boom - a competitive team in 2015 without breaking the bank. They should have hired me as GM. 

58Supersports
58Supersports

Can't blame Hart for trying.  I'm looking forward to the Braves new "HART WAY".  Give Hart a chance before everyone gives up and goes crazy.  Jon Lester may fool you and sign with Braves, we'll see, if not Hart will get someone else.. Go Braves.

RickinWarnerRobins
RickinWarnerRobins

@ThebigWally  I thought that some idiot at the AJC concocted this new web design, but I ran across the Palm Beach FL newspaper and it looks exactly like this. Seems to me if you're going to copy another newspaper's website, you'd at least copy a decent website...not an absolute piece of dog crap website like this.

Wilbo
Wilbo

@ThebigWally The Braves will sign Satchel Paige, Mickey Mantle, have Bjorn Borg play shortstop and win 3 World Series, before the decrepit AJC does anything of value

reckingball
reckingball

Oh Yeah,.....and after all of that happens,......all of the Braves fans everywhere can live happily-ever-after, as they breathe in all of the fairy-dust cascading down on us from the magical clouds above, while at  the same time,  wonderful sunshine envelopes with soothing warmth.

It will be wonderful.

reckingball
reckingball

@Falcons63

I think that Heyward proved his "toughnes", and that he was a very good player. I hated to see him go, but  the Braves really need pitching, imo.

rundmc
rundmc

@Brock Janiak Simma down. They're having a conversation. There's more interest from Lester than any of the SP you named. WSH will most certainly re-sign Zimm, Fister, while Samardzja/Price will go to the highest-bidder. Lester has stated that he's not out for the largest contract and has a home in ATL, which bodes well. La Stella is not worth mentioning in terms of offense. He barely did anything at the MLB level. Getting away from JUp and Gattis would also be an opportunity to get away from strikeouts and remold the team into a more disciplined line-up. Lester could also backload a deal that would allow us to free-up some money in the near future to be able to spend a little more on some FA bats (i.e. Stanton is doing in MIA). Plus, signing Lester means you're not giving up a top pick because there's no pick attached to him, which won't be the same for Samardzja and Price.

rundmc
rundmc

@BravoDawg It won't be that easy to get rid of BJ. And involving in BJ and Minor in the same deal means that you're not getting the full value of Minor, who coming off one of his worst seasons in 2014, means you're not going to get a whole lot of value though he's a young controllable arm that (2014 notwithstanding) was one of our more reliable arms and has the upside of a 1st rd pick. Giving up on him would be a mistake. He got a late start to 2014 due to an injury that made him miss spring training conditioning, and he wasn't the same since.

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

@MikeY1959

Actually I think the Braves should move both Medlen and Beachy into the Bullpen. Less stress on their arm. If they come back with control problem's then you cut them loose.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@rundmc  I think Ackley is a LF not a 2b...but  good OF. I also like One of following Chavez, Jackson or Jones for OF.. all have speed. and 4 or 5 years control.  But must get Walker or Paxton as pitcher.

Wilbo
Wilbo

@reckingball And Dale Murphy and Chipper Jones will turn out to be the twin faces of Gawd All Might T!


58Supersports
58Supersports

@reckingball  I thought everything was already wonderful with you and the Braves. You and stinger 2 are the #1 homer...has that changed?

rundmc
rundmc

@C-Kirk @MikeY1959 Good idea, but you still need to find a compromise on a new deal for them that isn't a slap in the face and they are probably going to want to start - which means more money. I could see Medlen bolting for another team that has a better, more incentive-laden deal and a rotation spot that could allow him to grow into it - something like TB, etc.

rundmc
rundmc

@58Supersports Interesting, yes, Ackley is OF at this point, so that limits the need for him. I like Walker's upside, but getting another arm and giving up a big bat in the process seems like redundancy unless we really have a plan to address the lagging offense, and/or sign a FA arm that will allow us to trade some of the young pitching we do have (i.e. Minor, etc.). I'm reading more about Austin Wilson OF and his power abilities. We need to go into their prospects and not waste time. I don't think they would involve Austin Jackson.