The never-ending saga of the Jon Lester contract talks continues through the All-Star break.
The latest bit of news comes via Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, who writes that Lester put contract talks on hold with the Red Sox when the team tried to re-start discussions, telling the team he preferred to avoid any potential distractions during the season.
Lester told Heyman he was “thrown off” by what he saw as a change by the team as the Red Sox previously preferred not to have talks during the season. Lester said that he never received another offer from the Red Sox beyond the reported initial offer of four years and $70 million, considered to be a low-ball offer by most pundits covering the negotiations.
“When the time is right, we can talk about it,” Lester told Heyman Monday night. “We never received a [new] offer. The conversation had picked up. But there never was an offer thrown out there.”
According to the report, the price to sign Lester is “moving so swiftly that eight execs and agents (four apiece), none involved in this case, suggested he’d get between $125 million and $189 million as a free agent.” Heyman writes that a few of the guessers mentioned the $144 million Cole Hamels deal and the $147 million Zack Greinke deal, but the biggest predictions were for seven years, with one coming in at $175 million and another $189 million. That breaks down to $25 million and $27 million annually, a far cry from the Red Sox’ initial offer.
In a conversation with the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy recently, Red Sox team president Larry Lucchino acknowledged the low-ball starting offer this spring after Lester indicated he would consider a “hometown discount” in January.
“Everybody is hopeful on everything,” Lester told reporters at the All-Star game. “The right time will come when we sit down and talk about it, whether it’s tomorrow or four months from now. Like I keep reiterating to Ben [Cherington] and to ownership and to you guys, this is where I want to be.”
The 30-year-old southpaw does not think the Red Sox took advantage of his “hometown discount” soundbite with their initial offer.
“I don’t think ‘exploited’ is the right word; they took a shot. They put the collective offer out there, that’s where they wanted to start off,” Lester said. “We had plenty of talks after that as far as money, moving years, moving money, but never got to another offer. Like I said, Opening Day came and went, and we put it on the back burner.”
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner spoke about the Lester situation with the Globe’s Peter Abraham this week.
“Our hope is to retain his services for his career beyond this season,” Werner said. “We do have private conversations and some things are probably best left private for now. But, yes, our intention is to come up with an offer that would be acceptable to everybody. We understand he could have other options. But also understand that he is a player we want to keep.”
Werner admitted it’s a bit of “selective risk” to enter into a contract beyond four years with the Sox ace.
“Any sober baseball executive is aware of the increasing injury time that pitchers are spending on the DL,” Werner said. “You don’t have to look too far, the Yankees have, what, four-fifths of their rotation on the DL? You have to take selective risks. Jon Lester has been consistently strong in his career and durable. But with any player over 30, you have to be cognizant of the risks. But again, let me go back and say we love Jon Lester and we love his makeup as well as his pitching talents. He’s been in the organization his whole career and we want that to continue.”
Lester has been outstanding in his last three starts and overall is 9-7 with a 2.65 ERA on the season.