(Reuters) - Chicago baseball took another leap forward when the Cubs secured the services of lefthander Jon Lester, the first big free agent starting pitching prize this offseason to choose a new team.
The National League Central club did not confirm the deal, but new manager Joe Maddon did late on Tuesday, excited about adding 30-year-old Lester in what could be a key step in the mission to bring the Cubs a first World Series title since 1908.
“This definitely propels us into Plan A, which is kind of neat,” Maddon told reporters in the lobby of the Winter Meetings headquarter hotel in San Diego, adding he received the news in a text from Cubs chief of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
“It’s a big day for us, moving forward. It really brings a lot of different factors together. It’s very exciting.”
The deal has been reported by local media to be six years and $155 million, which would make it the Cubs’ richest ever.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Cubs traded with the Arizona Diamondbacks to obtain All-Star catcher Miguel Montero.
The Chicago White Sox of the American League (73-89) have also made big moves, trading with Oakland for starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija and signing free agent closer David Robertson and slugger Adam LaRoche in the offseason.
The Cubs, who are loaded with promising young position players, have not had a winning record since 2009, the last time they finished above fifth place in the division.
Last year Lester was 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA in 32 starts between Boston and Oakland. The lefty has compiled a 116-67 career record and helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2007 and 2013.
“It’s not often you get to win the lottery,” said Maddon, who left the Tampa Bay Rays after the 2014 season to join the Cubs, who also went 73-89. “We won the baseball lottery so far this year. Now it’s up to us to put it into effect.”
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York