SAN DIEGO - The Chicago Cubs are trying to climb out of baseball's basement, hiring a top-notch manager, trading for an all-star catcher, and capturing the offseason's biggest prize.
"It's not often you get to win the lottery, and we won the baseball lottery this year," manager Joe Maddon said late Tuesday, after starting pitcher Jon Lester agreed to a $155 million, six-year contract. "Now it's up to us to put it into effect."
Lester's contract, agreed to on the second day of baseball's winter meetings, contains an option for 2021 that, if it becomes guaranteed, would make the deal worth $170 million over seven seasons. The average annual value of $25.8 million is the second-highest for a pitcher behind Clayton Kershaw's $30.7 million as part of a $215 million, seven-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that began this year.
A three-time all-star who turns 31 next month, Lester won two World Series titles with Boston. The lefthander joins a long-suffering team with a promising core of young players and Maddon, who left Tampa Bay and signed a $25 million, five-year contract with the Cubs.
Now, Chicago has an ace to lead the rotation as it tries to end a run of five straight losing seasons and a championship drought that dates to 1908.
Lester was dealt by the Red Sox to Oakland at the trade deadline in July and helped the A's reach the playoffs for the third straight year before a 9-8, 12-inning loss to Kansas City in the AL wild-card game. He went 16-11 with a career-best 2.46 ERA and 220 strikeouts last season, and is 116-67 with a 3.58 ERA in nine big- league seasons.
The Cubs management is making over the team in a big way.
Chicago has a pending $20 million, two-year deal with righthander Jason Hammel, traded by the Cubs to Oakland last summer. Earlier Tuesday, the Cubs acquired catcher Miguel Montero from Arizona for two minor-leaguers in a deal that added $40 million in payroll over the next three years.
Chicago's rotation is likely to also include Jake Arrieta, Travis Wood, and Kyle Hendricks.
After losing out on Lester, Boston acquired lefthanded starter Wade Miley from the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster and a minor-leaguer to be identified, according ESPN.com. Miley, 28, could be the No. 3 starter between righthanders Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly.
The Marlins pulled off a major trade, acquiring second baseman Dee Gordon and starting pitcher Dan Haren from the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Andrew Heaney and three other players, the Miami Herald reported.
The deal, which had not been announced, was confirmed by major-league sources.
Gordon, 26, whose 64 stolen bases led the majors last season, provides the Marlins with a leadoff hitter. He was an all-star last season, hitting .289 while leading the league with 12 triples.
Haren is a 34-year-old veteran of 12 major-league seasons, compiling a career record of 142-122. Last season, Haren went 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA in 32 starts.
In an addition to Heaney, who is regarded as one of the top lefthanded pitching prospects in baseball, the Marlins also gave up reliever Chris Hatcher, minor-league catcher Austin Barnes, and infielder Kike Hernandez.
People familiar with the negotiations said the Houston Astros bolstered their bullpen by agreeing to an $18.5 million, three-year contract with Luke Gregerson and a $12.5 million, two-year deal with Pat Neshek.
The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the deals with the righthanders were subject to physicals.
Gregerson, 30, spent five years with San Diego, then went 5-5 with a 2.12 ERA in 72 appearances for Oakland last season. Neshek, 34, has pitched for Minnesota, San Diego, Oakland, and St. Louis. He was 7-2 with a 1.87 ERA for the Cardinals last season, when he struck out 68 in 671/3 innings and was picked for his first All-Star Game.