The Red Sox have offered free agents Jon Lester and Pablo Sandoval multiyear deals, according to a major league source.
The offer to Lester was $110 million-$120 million over six years, an average of $18.3 million-$20 million a year. Lester is believed to be seeking a six- or seven-year deal in the range of $23 million-$25 million per year.
The team's meeting with Lester, attended by principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, president Larry Lucchino, and COO Sam Kennedy, was characterized as "cordial and respectful" by the source. In March, the Red Sox offered Lester a four-year, $70 million deal.
Lester also visited with the Chicago Cubs, who along with the Red Sox were expected to be the most aggressive in their pursuit of the lefthander. Lester will meet with the Atlanta Braves Thursday, and he also could make trips to Toronto (Blue Jays) and St. Louis (Cardinals).
It's not clear where the Yankees stand in all of this, but they, too, could enter the Lester market.
Sandoval, the third baseman who helped lead the San Francisco Giants to the World Series title this fall, is seeking six years and up to $20 million per year, and the Red Sox and Giants appear to be the front-runners for his services. The Blue Jays, who have already laid out $82 million over five years for catcher Russell Martin, also may be readying an offer for Sandoval.
Sandoval spent part of Monday and all of Tuesday in Boston meeting with Red Sox ownership and general manager Ben Cherington. While Sandoval was in town, the Giants discussed a five-year deal in the $80 million-$90 million range with him — similar to the five-year, $90 million package the Giants gave outfielder Hunter Pence in 2013.
Sandoval's agent, Gus Vasquez, spoke to the Giants after Sandoval left Boston, according to Foxsports.com. The Chicago White Sox also have shown interest in Sandoval, and the Miami Marlins could enter the mix.
Lester's visit with the Braves is significant because Atlanta is about a half-hour from his home. But the Braves need to make salary room if they are to add Lester to the rotation. New Braves president of baseball operations John Hart has been aggressive in his pursuit of pitching, adding hard-throwing, 24-year-old righthander Shelby Miller from the Cardinals in a four-player trade Monday that sent right fielder Jason Heyward to St. Louis.
With the Cardinals trading Miller, Lester could be a complement to righthander Adam Wainwright.
The Cubs believe Lester is going back to Boston, MLB Network reported.
The Red Sox also have interest in James Shields and Justin Masterson (as a secondary choice), and they had a brief conversation with the agents for righthander Jason Hammel, who was with Oakland last season.
If the Sox are unable to land Lester, they could continue trade talks with the Phillies on lefthander Cole Hamels, who is owed $110 million over five years. The Sox would have to part with some of their pitching prospects to get Hamels.
The Red Sox made a move Wednesday that could improve their bench, claiming infielder Juan Francisco off waivers from the Blue Jays.
Francisco is a lesser version of Sandoval.
Francisco, a burly 27-year-old from the Dominican Republic, hit .220 with a .747 OPS last season and had 16 home runs.
Sandoval, a burly 28-year-old from Venezuela, hit .279 with a .739 OPS last season and had 16 home runs.
The difference is that Sandoval has a career .346 on-base percentage and has struck out in only 13 percent of his plate appearances while playing for three World Series winners in San Francisco. Sandoval also is an above-average defensive player.
Francisco has a .297 OBP, has struck out 34 percent of the time, and is a poor defensive player. In terms of playoff experience, Francisco has one at-bat, that coming in 2010 with the Reds.
The Red Sox are Francisco's fifth organization since he made his major league debut in 2009 with Cincinnati.
He has been traded twice, released and now let go on waivers.
Because he hits lefthanded, Francisco could fill a pinch-hitting role for the predominantly righthanded-hitting Red Sox with occasional starts at first and third.
His salary is potentially an issue. Francisco is eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career and is line to make approximately $2.2 million, according to projections by the MLB Trade Rumors website.
The Red Sox could non-tender Francisco before the Dec. 2 deadline, then try to sign him to a more agreeable contract.
The addition of Francisco gives the Red Sox 36 players on their 40-man roster. Teams have until Thursday to set their 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 11.
The Red Sox seem sure to add catcher Blake Swihart and second baseman Sean Coyle, two of their better prospects. First baseman Travis Shaw and outfielder Henry Ramos also are candidates.
If the 40-man roster is full, the Sox would have to make other moves to clear space for any players acquired via trade or free agency.