Chicago Cubs

Cubs' Jon Lester 'absolutely' open to Red Sox return with future uncertain

Cubs' Jon Lester 'absolutely' open to Red Sox return with future uncertain

Jon Lester is open to anything in these unprecedented times -- including a reunion with the team that famously low-balled him six years ago.

The Chicago Cubs pitcher, who's entering the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2020, told WEEI's Rob Bradford he's not ruling out any options going forward, including a return to the Boston Red Sox.

"I don't know what is going to happen next year,” Lester told Bradford. "I know I have the team option, the player option, that sort of thing. We'll figure that out one way or the other. I will either be here or be a free agent. Obviously everything is open. I'm open-minded to anything.

"Absolutely it would be cool to go back and finish my career where it all started (in Boston). But, I've got a little time before I really have to sit down and weigh that decision, even if it's something where they want me back. Hopefully, I'm still a good enough caliber pitcher that the want of my services will still be out there for people. We'll see."

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The 36-year-old has a $25 million option for 2021 that would vest if he pitches 200 innings in 2020, a threshold that seems impossible considering MLB still hasn't started its season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

If Lester doesn't pitch 200 innings, the Cubs can decide whether to pay him $25 million in his age-37 season or make him a free agent. Considering he posted a 4.46 ERA in 2019 while allowing a career-high 205 hits, they'll likely choose the latter.

Lester enjoyed an All-Star campaign in 2018, though, and certainly is a beloved figure in Boston: He won two World Series titles with the Red Sox after coming up through the team's farm system and was an incredibly clutch postseason pitcher.

Lester parted with the Sox on acrimonious terms, as Boston traded the left-hander to the Oakland Athletics in 2014 after he rejected the team's four-year, $70 million contract offer that offseason. (He'd later sign a six-year, $155 million deal with Chicago that he's about to finish.)

But Lester isn't dwelling on the past; he's far more concerned about getting back on the mound and finding work wherever he can get it.

"It's weird. Not only for the individuals that are going into free agency or arbitration or what-not. People are getting a year older and not putting up numbers," Lester told Bradford,

"With how our game is now with everybody so focused on your age and all that, this really hurts people. On a personal level, this hurts me. I'm not getting any younger and coming off a year like I had last year, this isn't going to help me."

Major League Baseball has discussed several options to return to play and reportedly is eyeing a late-June start to the 2020 season. The sooner the better for Lester.

Red Sox' Jhonny Pereda among players worried about salary during pandemic

Red Sox' Jhonny Pereda among players worried about salary during pandemic

The Boston Red Sox traded for Chicago Cubs catcher Jhonny Pereda last week in a surprising move for a minor league catcher who was awaiting clarity on his salary amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Pereda, a 23-year-old from Venezuela, relies on his minor league salary to help take care of his family back home and, like many, he's worried about getting paid.

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"I was just hoping and looking forward to the beginning of the season and to start making money," Pereda told ESPN's Joon Lee, through a translator. "I have to give support to my family. When I found out that the season was over, my first thought was, 'What am I going to do?'"

Minor league players don't get paid nearly as much as players in the majors, and Pereda noted that many Latin American athletes come to the United States to be able to provide for their families. 

"Coming from a third-world country where everything is very hard and tough, with the entire situation, I just wish that MLB and other people can help the minor leaguers [more] than they are doing right now because we need that money to live and provide for our families," Pereda said. "I think I can speak for all the Latin-American players, coming from there to the States, when we arrive to this country, it is because we are going to work and we are trying to make money to provide for our families.

"Of course, being in the big leagues, you have all of the attention of the fans and people sometimes don't realize how hard the struggle we have to go through. Only the players know how hard it is to get there because being in the business, you have to go to the minors first."

While Pereda and the minor leaguers are worried about what the future holds, MLB announced Tuesday they would be assisting minor league players throughout the pandemic. Each player will receive $400 per week with medical benefits, according to Ken Rosenthal.

While $400 per week isn't much to buy groceries, pay bills and help out their families, it's a start. In fact, some lower minor league players don't make that much money while veterans in the minors will see a pay reduction. 

For all pro athletes and their fans, and more importantly, everyone's overall health, we can only hope the crisis subsides and sports return as soon as possible. 



Red Sox land catching prospect from Cubs to finish Travis Lakins trade

Red Sox land catching prospect from Cubs to finish Travis Lakins trade

The coronavirus pandemic hasn't stopped the Boston Red Sox from conducting business.

The Red Sox acquired catching prospect Jhonny Pereda from the Chicago Cubs on Monday to complete their January 21 trade of right-hander Travis Lakins.

That January deal involved Boston sending Lakins to Chicago for cash considerations or player to be named later -- and that player is Pereda, a 23-year-old prospect from Venezuela.

Pereda's offensive numbers aren't inspiring -- he slashed .248/.332/.319 for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies last season with two home runs and 39 RBIs in 98 games played -- but he boasts an elite glove.

Pereda won the minor leagues' Gold Glove award in 2019 as the best defensive catcher in Minor League Baseball after throwing out 44 attempted base-stealers in 132 chances, more than any catcher in Double- or Triple-A.

The young catcher will join an overhauled group of backstops behind starter Christian Vazquez that includes veterans Kevin Plawecki and Jonathan Lucroy and recently-acquired prospect Connor Wong.

When we'll see Pereda remains unclear, though: MLB's season currently is delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic with an unknown timetable for a return.