The Atlanta Braves will meet with free-agent LHP Jon Lester on Thursday, according to a report.
Lester is a free agent after splitting the 2014 season between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics. He was traded to Oakland at the July trade deadline and finished the year 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA and 220 strikeouts to 48 walks in 219.2 innings.
Lester, 30, is the No. 2 free agent available, according to SI.com's Ben Reiter.
Though the Braves entered the offseason with seemingly little financial flexibility, Monday's trade of outfielder Jason Heyward and RHP Jordan Walden to the St. Louis Cardinals shed about $11 million from an Atlanta payroll that is expected to hover around $110 million this season. According to Bowman, the Braves would likely have to trade fielder Justin Upton (owed $14.5 million this season) and possibly C Evan Gattis (one more arbitration-eligible season remaining) to afford Lester.
Lester resides in suburban Georgia, which could further enhance the Braves' appeal, Bowman notes. In addition to interest from Atlanta, Lester has also drawn interest from the Cubs and the Red Sox, whom he met with last week.
Atlanta's rotation currently consists of RHP Julio Teheran, LHP Mike Minor, LHP Alex Wood and RHP Shelby Miller, who was acquired from the Cardinals in Monday's trade. According to Bowman, the Braves are expected to target additional starters over the coming weeks.
- Mike Fiammetta