The Rundown: Cubs Reportedly Make Offer to Lester, Dave Martinez Leaves Tampa, Giants Interested in Valbuena?

My confidence in the Cubs’ ability to sign LHP free-agent Jon Lester is waning by the day. I’m preparing myself to be disappointed, and if he does end up coming to Chicago, it will be a pleasant surprise.

Yesterday, David Kaplan reported that the Cubs have made a “significant” offer to Lester — “north” of $135 million.

We have previously heard that the Red Sox have offered Lester between $110 million and $120 million. Meanwhile, Bruce Levine tweets that, according to a source, Lester will receive $25 million per year.

We don’t know how much more than $135 million the Cubs have offered, which makes me wonder: is it enough to beat the Red Sox (or Yankees)?

Like I said, I’m not very confident.

Following the Red Sox press conference announcing the signing on Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox owner John Henry told Rob Bradford that they were willing to blow through the luxury tax this offseason. And asked whether he is optimistic about signing Lester, Henry said, “I am. I’m hopeful.”

Later in the evening, an entertaining Twitter exchange occurred between Kaplan and Gordon Wittenmyer:

What to make of this? I trust Kap on this one. I’m not sure what Wittenmyer’s angle is, or exactly what isn’t accurate about Kaplan’s report. Regardless, whether Kaplan’s report is accurate or not, I’m not sure it makes feel any better about the Cubs’ chances.

Other notes

* Dave Martinez has decided to leave Tampa Bay, and Gordon Wittenmyer suggests new Cubs manager Joe Maddon could bring him to Chicago. Not a shock that Martinez left Tampa, as he was recently bypassed as a candidate to take over the Rays’ manager vacancy. It would’ve been pretty awkward for him to stick around.

* Jesse Rogers sat down with new Cubs hitting coach John Mallee. It’s a pretty interesting read about hitting with two strikes. Mallee points out that OPS take a huge dip once the count reaches two strikes — a .700 OPS drops to .506 with two strikes. However, the batting average on balls in play (BABIP) with two strikes remains similar to other counts. So a key for the Cubs, theoretically, will be to focus on putting the ball in play with two strikes. We know how many troubles the Cubs had with strikeouts last year. It’s an interesting philosophy, yet makes a ton of sense.

* With the Giants losing third baseman Pablo Sandoval to the Red Sox, they may be interested in a trade for the Cubs’ Luis Valbuena, according to David Kaplan. The left-handed-hitting infielder provides a lot of value to the Cubs, but they do have Kris Bryant waiting in the wings, and also have Mike Olt floating around. I’d probably prefer to hold on to Valbuena to ultimately use as a fill-in infielder (and starter until Bryant is up), but if he can bring back a great deal of value, maybe it’s worth pulling the trigger.

* More Giants news: Their meeting with Jon Lester is scheduled for next week, according to Bob Nightengale.

* ESPN’s Jayson Stark writes that this offseason may, in fact, not be the best time for the Phillies to trade Cole Hamels. Obviously, Hamels’ value is pretty high right now. But there are also a ton of options out there (Scherzer, Shields, Zimmermann), so that has to be tough for the Phillies, Stark writes.

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