UPDATE (Dec. 3, 7:40 p.m PT): Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provides additional confirmation that the Dodgers are indeed interested in Jon Lester:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 4, 2014
UPDATE (Dec. 3, 6:35 p.m. PT): According to Rob Bradford and Alex Speier of WEEI.com, sources believe the Dodgers have entered the chase for Lester:
But multiple sources connected to teams interested in Lester have told WEEI.com that the Dodgers are a late entrant into the sweepstakes, with both serious interest in the top left-hander on the market and the resources to make a hard, late charge.
Furthermore, one source believes the Dodgers have gotten so far as to make an offer to Lester, while another could see them playing spoiler:
One industry source was under the impression that the Dodgers had already entered the bidding with an offer to Lester, while another characterized the Dodgers as poised to play a role similar to the one made by the Yankees in December 2008, when New York swooped in late to sign Mark Teixeira away from other interested bidders with a high bid of eight years and $180 million.
By all accounts, the Los Angeles Dodgers intend on lowering their payroll that will coincide with an emphasis placed on further developing the farm system. However, with just under $200 million already guaranteed to 17 players under contract, the Dodgers may once again lead the Majors in payroll.
With needs at shortstop and in their starting rotation, the Dodgers may soon become buyers in the free agent market. After some belief they wouldn’t pursue a player that would cost them a draft pick, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the Dodgers have expressed interest in Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields:
The Dodgers, according to sources, are indeed expressing interest in the top free-agent starters – left-hander Jon Lester and right-handers Max Scherzer and James Shields.
Of the three pitchers, Lester is arguably the most coveted and the teams vying for his services includes the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox. The market hasn’t been as strong for Scherzer and Shields, though their picture should become more clear once Lester signs.
Their respective numbers in 2014 paint a picture of little separation between the group:
Lester: 16-11, 32 starts, 2.46 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 219.2 innings pitched, 220 strikeouts
Scherzer: 18-5, 33 starts, 3.15 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 220.1 innings pitched, 252 strikeouts
Shields: 14-8, 34 starts, 3.21 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 227 innings pitched, 180 strikeouts
The Dodgers were linked to Lester prior to the trade deadline last season with speculation fueled by Matt Kemp’s unhappiness at the time. Considered a strength for the Dodgers over the last two seasons, their starting rotation may be on unstable ground.
Zack Greinke can opt out after the 2015 season and coincidentally, said during the All-Star break he would monitor Lester’s and Scherzer’s situation. Of the three free-agent pitchers, Shields is the oldest at age 32, while Lester and Scherzer are both 30 years old and months apart.
Signing any of the elite pitchers available would likely require a minimum of a four-year commitment from the Dodgers and would add a significant amount of salary to their payroll. It would also cost the Dodgers their first-round draft pick in 2015 if they sign Scherzer as they were presented with the qualifying offer prior to free agency beginning.