Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester is featured on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, and Tom Verducci profiles how the Cubs convinced the free agent to agree to a six-year, $155 million contract.
The Cubs and general manager Theo Epstein did some conventional things in their recruitment -- his contract has a full no-trade clause and a vesting option for his seventh year (and is worth $155 million). They gave him 25 hours of private jet time per year and sent flowers to his wife, Farrah. (Don't worry, Jon wasn't left out: The Cubs sent the avid hunter camouflage hats and shirts.)
But they did one other extremely effective thing to sell the pitcher: They overnighted a DVD of the Cubs winning the World Series.
On the first day of free-agency, the team sent Lester a video showing the Cubs winning Game 7 of the World Series. Chicago famously hasn't won the World Series since 1908, but the team got creative: Some of imagery came from a 2012 Playstation ad. The DVD showed Wrigley Field's famous marquee with, "CUBS VS. YANKEES. GAME 7. LESTER VS. PINEDA." It also showed the fake pandemonium afterward, including celebrations on the field and media coverage from outside the stadium.
Somehow, it could have gotten weirder: In Lester's introductory press conference, Epstein joked he "was ready to soak [himself] in deer urine if necessary" to get the deal done.
2014 Sports Illustrated Covers
- Sarah Barshop