SAN DIEGO — Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon was enjoying his pork chop dinner with a couple of red glasses of wine late Tuesday evening when he checked the text message on his cell phone.
The Cubs just signed Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million contract, with a seventh-year option that could make the deal worth $170 million, Maddon was informed, beating out the San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox, according to a high-ranking baseball official with direct knowledge of the negotiations.
The official spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because the deal is not yet finalized.
“It’s not often you get to win the lottery,” Maddon said. “We won the baseball lottery so far this year.”
Maddon just won the lottery.
This is a guy who was making $2 million a year working for the cheap Tampa Bay Rays just two months ago. Now, he’s earning $25 million with his new five-year contract, and his team just spent more money on one player than twice the entire payroll of the Rays last season.
My God, Maddon had completely forgotten what it was like to be on a team signing free agents. The last time he felt this euphoria was back in 2004 when he was the Los Angeles Angels bench coach and they signed Vladimir Guerrero to five-year, $70 million deal.
It’s up to us now to put it in effect.
“It’s all theory right now. We’ve got to make it real.
“But you need pieces like this to make it real.”
The Cubs have got a whole lot of pieces now, with Lester leading a young staff and a team filled with prized prospects.
They have young stars such as first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro. They have prized prospects in third baseman Kris Bryant, outfielder Jorge Soler, second baseman Javier Baez and shortstop Addison Russell.
And yes, as it turns out, they got a nice big bank account.