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Sources — Jon Lester, Washington Nationals agree to 1-year deal with mutual option



Left-handed starter Jon Lester and the Washington Nationals are in agreement on a one-year deal with a mutual option, pending a physical, sources familiar with the contract told ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Toward the end of a successful six-year run with the Chicago Cubs, Lester’s numbers began to go south. But every time he was counted out, he showed he could adjust and produce.

That includes in the shortened 2020 season when he started out hot, then took about a five-game dip before fixing his mechanics. He finished with a deceptive 5.16 ERA. Three of his final four starts produced a 1.06 ERA though he never got a chance to pitch in the postseason as the Cubs got swept in two games to the Marlins.

Overall, the 36-year-old left-hander was 3-3 in 61 innings and 12 starts for the Cubs last season with 42 strikeouts and 17 walks. He earned a prorated $5,555,556 from his scheduled $15 million salary.

Lester is in the final stages of his career and is old school in the sense that pitcher wins still matter to him. He has 193 career victories but the times where he’s really shined in his career have come in October where he’s produced a 2.51 career postseason ERA.

Two hundred wins and a chance at another title while cementing his Hall of Fame credentials are what’s on Lester’s mind as he begins the final phase of his career. He won’t do it with velocity or pure stuff but he hasn’t forgotten how to pitch, the ultimate need for an older hurler.

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Win totals, World Series, pennant and division odds for all 30 MLB teams



It might not seem like it, but baseball season is right around the corner. And futures betting is already here.

Opening Day 2021 is scheduled for April 1, with all 30 teams slated to be play. The Dodgers, whose posted win total of 104.5 ties the 1999 Yankees for highest total in the last 30 seasons, will begin their title defense on the road against the Rockies. The plan is for a full 162-game schedule that finishes the regular season on October 3.

Of note, the expanded postseason we had in 2020 is not currently slated to return in 2021. Barring a new agreement, the previous setup of the AL and NL having five teams each and beginning with a win-or-go-home wild-card game would be in effect.

Regarding rules, the universal DH will not be used this season, but doubleheaders will again feature seven-inning games. And when a game goes to extra innings, a runner will be on second base to start each half-inning.

The Dodgers are the favorites in the National League, and the Yankees are the top pick to come out of the American League. But there are some newcomers joining them near the top of the World Series odds. Here are the season win totals, pennant odds, division odds and World Series odds for all 30 teams.

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.

NL East

New York Mets (10-1 to win World Series)

Wins: 89
Win division: +145
Win NL: 5-1

Atlanta Braves (12-1)

Wins: 92
Win division: +155
Win NL: 6-1

Washington Nationals (35-1)

Wins: 84.5
Win division: +550
Win NL: 20-1

Philadelphia Phillies (40-1)

Wins: 81.5
Win division: +850
Win NL: 22-1

Miami Marlins (70-1)

Wins: 73.5
Win division: 15-1
Win NL: 35-1

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals (25-1)

Wins: 88
Win division: +180
Win NL: 13-1

Cincinnati Reds (30-1)

Wins: 81.5
Win division: +260
Win NL: 16-1

Chicago Cubs (40-1)

Wins: 79.5
Win division: +325
Win NL: 22-1

Milwaukee Brewers (60-1)

Wins: 84.5
Win division: +325
Win NL: 30-1

Pittsburgh Pirates (200-1)

Wins: 58
Win division: 70-1
Win NL: 125-1

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers (+350)

Wins: 104.5
Win division: -250
Win NL: +170

San Diego Padres (9-1)

Wins: 92
Win division: +190
Win NL: +425

Arizona Diamondbacks (100-1)

Wins: 75.5
Win division: 45-1
Win NL: 50-1

San Francisco Giants (100-1)

Wins: 73
Win division: 50-1
Win NL: 60-1

Colorado Rockies (150-1)

Wins: 62.5
Win division: 50-1
Win NL: 75-1

AL East

New York Yankees (+550 to win World Series)

Wins: 97
Win division: -190
Win AL: +250

Toronto Blue Jays (20-1)

Wins: 86
Win division: +450
Win AL: 9-1

Tampa Bay Rays (25-1)

Wins: 88.5
Win division: 4-1
Win AL: 9-1

Boston Red Sox (60-1)

Wins: 77
Win division: 14-1
Win AL: 25-1

Baltimore Orioles (100-1)

Win total: 64
Win division: 80-1
Win AL: 60-1

AL Central

Chicago White Sox (10-1)

Wins: 90.5
Win division: -125
Win AL: 4-1

Minnesota Twins (16-1)

Wins: 89.5
Win division: +165
Win AL: 7-1

Cleveland Indians (35-1)

Wins: 81
Win division: +650
Win AL: 15-1

Detroit Tigers (100-1)

Wins: 66
Win division: 40-1
Win AL: 60-1

Kansas City Royals (100-1)

Wins: 71
Win division: 30-1
Win AL: 60-1

AL West

Oakland Athletics (18-1)

Wins: 88.5
Win division: +130
Win AL: +850

Houston Astros (20-1)

Wins: 88
Win division: +130
Win AL: 9-1

Los Angeles Angels (40-1)

Wins: 83
Win division: +425
Win AL: 20-1

Seattle Mariners (80-1)

Wins: 71
Win division: 30-1
Win AL: 40-1

Texas Rangers (100-1)

Wins: 69.5
Win division: 40-1
Win AL: 60-1

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Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker gets COVID-19 vaccine after initial reticence



HOUSTON — Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker said he had been vaccinated against COVID-19 as the team began spring training Thursday.

But the 71-year-old Baker, who is Black, understands the reticence of some in his community to get the vaccine because of this country’s history with medical studies on Black people without permission.

Baker was only convinced to get the vaccine after seeing a television interview with a Black doctor connected to one of the vaccines who guaranteed this would not be “another Tuskegee Experiment.”

The Tuskegee Experiment was a study of syphilis conducted on Black men in Tuskegee, Alabama, from 1932-72. It provided no treatment for the disease and was done without the informed consent of its participants.

“I was very aware of the experiment and so was my mom and dad,” Baker said. “And so, I was a little leery about getting the vaccine.”

Baker, the second-oldest manager in the majors, also noted that getting the vaccine was important for him because his age makes him more susceptible to severe complications from the coronavirus.

He received the second dose of the vaccine about two weeks ago before he traveled from his home in California to West Palm Beach, Fla. to begin his second season with the Astros.

Though Baker decided getting the vaccine was right for him, he won’t try to change the mind of people who are “staunchly against” getting it. That includes his elderly mother.

“It’s their decision,” he said. “My mom will be 90 on March 1 and she’s not going to get it. She refused to get it.”

He won’t press those who are strongly against getting it to change their minds. But he is comfortable with encouraging people who aren’t sure about it to be vaccinated.

“So, I’m urging people to try to sort of take care of themselves,” he said. “And I know it’s a kind of touchy situation. A lot of people don’t trust the vaccine… you do what you’ve got to do. But my suggestion was for those that are on the fence, get the vaccine.”

Also on Thursday, the team announced that third base coach Gary Pettis, who missed the end of last season after being diagnosed with cancer, would miss spring training and re-join the team for the regular season.

“I’m doing very well, but my doctors felt that due to some potential logistical issues caused by the ongoing pandemic, it made sense for me to continue with my treatments here at home,” Pettis said in a release. “They are being cautious with me, which I understand. I’m doing great and will be back with the ball club, but it will be later than we had thought.”

Pettis, who has been the team’s third base coach since 2015, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma last year and left the team in September to undergo treatment.

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Cleveland Indians ace Shane Bieber slowed by COVID-19, not yet at training camp



CLEVELAND — Cleveland Indians ace Shane Bieber tested positive for COVID-19, delaying the American League Cy Young winner’s arrival at training camp.

President of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said Thursday that Bieber has dealt with only very mild symptoms from the virus. Antonetti anticipates that Bieber, who had been working out at the team’s training complex in Goodyear, Arizona, will join the club in the next few days.

Antonetti would not disclose when Bieber tested positive.

The team’s pitchers and catchers reported earlier this week and the Indians will have their first full-squad workout on Sunday.

The 25-year-old Bieber was dominant last season, leading the league in wins (8), ERA (1.63) and strikeouts (122) in 12 starts. Bieber has gone 34-14 over the past three seasons.

The Indians are counting on him to lead their strong starting staff and keep the club competitive following the trade of All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and right-hander Carlos Carrasco.

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