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Impending free agent Jon Lester won’t talk contract with the Red Sox until after the season

Jul 24, 2014, 10:50 AM EDT

Jon Lester Getty AP

Jon Lester is three months from hitting the open market as a free agent and Red Sox president Larry Lucchino revealed during a radio interview that the left-hander has informed the team he won’t negotiate a new contract until after the season.

In other words: He’s going to be a free agent.

According to Lucchino during his appearance on WEEI in Boston “the parties have agreed to let’s step away and do this after the season” because “Jon made very clear to us that that was his preference.”

Lester reportedly rejected a $70 million extension offer from the Red Sox back in April, which isn’t surprising considering the 30-year-old is in line for well over $100 million if he can simply get to the offseason healthy following what’s shaping up to be a career-year.

Lester has a career-low 2.50 ERA in 20 starts, posting a 142/31 K/BB ratio in 137 innings for the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career. He has a sub-4.00 ERA in six of his seven full seasons as a starter, going 99-61 with a 3.54 ERA in 214 total starts during that time while logging at least 190 innings in every season. He might able to double that $70 million offer on the open market.

  1. jcmeyer10 - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Hard to blame the guy.

  2. proudlycanadian - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    He gone!

    • SocraticGadfly - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      Well, at a minimum, he’ll be in the catbird seat of a bidding war, as you know Cashman’s already got his checkbook whipped out. If Boston wants him, it will have to go beyond 4 years, and, at a minimum, above $25M a year.

      • proudlycanadian - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:58 AM

        Do not forget Theo and the White Sox.

      • proudlycanadian - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:01 PM

        I am sure that the Cubs are interested, but he would be a terrific addition to the rotation of the White Sox. Chicago is a big market city and both teams could pay up.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:26 PM

        I could see Theo making a move, yes. White Sox, not so likely.

        Hell, don’t forget the Dodgers, too. They’ve shown they’ll crack that checkbook for anything under the new ownership.

      • pete2112 - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        Maybe I’m crazy but I’m not sure the Yankees would be interested. It’s not like he’s in the middle of his prime anymore. The Yankees need to get younger.

      • Eutaw's Finest - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:43 PM

        @pete you just proved your point. Lester is NOT in his prime, making him a prime Yankees target (see McCann, Beltran, Kuroda, Roberts signings last year).

      • pete2112 - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:25 PM

        Touche

  3. Glenn - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    The Sox really blew it with that low-ball offer before the season started. I know Lester said that he would take a hometown discount, but he didn’t say that he would be stupid about it. A fair offer from the Sox would have gotten it done then.

    • 18thstreet - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:24 PM

      Well, we’ll only know if they blew it five years from now. Lester will sign somewhere for five or six years, and then we can judge whether the team that got him (and it won’t be Boston) made a good decision.

      I tend to think he’s going to age well, and the Red Sox will regret this. But I also expect he’s got three great years left in him, and whoever signs him may very well sign him for six.

  4. aceshigh11 - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    If they lose him, they’ve got no one to blame but themselves. However, maybe they’re punishing him a bit for the 2011 debacle.

  5. sabatimus - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    If the Sox won’t pay him, he’ll end up on the Yankees, period.

  6. ajsjr40 - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    This is an example of sheer incompetency on the part of the Red Sox. A fair and reasonable offer before the season starts and they lock him up for five years (my guess is $110M). This will look like peanuts after he signs for six or seven years at between $140-$160M. But at least the Sox get a compensation pick.

  7. markfrednubble - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    This will be a severe test of the John Henry Red Sox and their evolved philosophy against long-term deals for players in their 30s. Still, I think Lester will sign with Boston for something like 5 years and $125m, maybe even stretching to 6/140 or so. It will be more than the Red Sox want to stomach given the ugly history of long-term deals for pitchers hitting age 30.

    But I think he stays, not for a noticeable “discount” but for somewhat less than the highest bid. Some guys actually mean it when they say they want to stay, and he has never wavered from strongly saying that. Both the player and the team have had no acrimony and the relationship seems to have remained positive. Lester picked the perfect time to have his best season, emerge as a true ace and Cy Young candidate, coming off the postseason hero performance of last October. The Sox will rationalize that he is just peaking and if they get three good years and one OK year it will have been worth it. Aces who are innings horses are so hard to find, and Lester proven he can thrive in a market that’s been painful for others.

  8. edelmanfanclub - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    17.5 million is a bad starting place for a left handed pitcher who pitches in the AL East and aside from 2011 has one full season where he ERA is over 3.50

    Player A: 30.71 million 15-8, 220 IP, 2.55 ERA, 149 ERA+, 2.79 FIP
    Player B: 25.71 million 17-10, 226 IP, 3.55 ERA, 123 ERA+, 3.44 FIP
    Player C: 25 million 14-10, 232 IP, 3.11 ERA, 130 ERA+, 3.13 FIP
    Player D: 24 millon 13-10, 226 IP, 3.51 ERA, 124 ERA+, 3.51 FIP
    Player E: 16-9, 214 IP, 3.65 ERA, 120 ERA+, 3.66 FIP

    Player A makes 30.71 million. Player C makes 25 million.

    Player B makes 25.71 million and D makes 24 million a year, so I’d say E should make around that.

    Lester is E so I’d say his contact based on the current market will be around 6 years, 147 million.

    Red Sox better pay up, I cannot see another one of our guys go to New York!!

    • edelmanfanclub - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:31 PM

      Wish there was an edit key, meant to delete those first digits so it wasn’t so repetitive. A is Kershaw, B is Verlander, C is King Felix, D is Hamels.

      • markfrednubble - Jul 24, 2014 at 3:03 PM

        Excellent list, edelman. My only asterisk would be age: Kershaw is 26 and Felix is 28, and both were much better age bets when they signed their latest deals.

        Verlander is 31 but his peak was much higher than Lester’s. Hamels is 30, like Lester, and maybe the best compare, but he signed his deal at 28 or 29 when his peak was probably higher than Lester’s is now.

        But I agree, Lester’s legitimate value in this context is about $25m for 5 or 6 years. The Sox better face it and pay it, especially with the Yankees his most likely destination if they don’t.

  9. keltictim - Jul 24, 2014 at 5:34 PM

    Why do y’all think he is gonna walk? The sox will clearly be sellers at the deadline, and with no shot this year Lester will be one of many pieces dealt. And can anybody tell me which pitchers commanding around 20 mil a season are worth it past 32? Father Time is undefeated, no pitcher is worth the money he will get in the later years. It’s a very tough but smart move by Ben “the boy wonder”.

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