Mar 21, 2014; Clearwater, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) sits in the dugout during the third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

“Hometown discount”? The Red Sox need to increase their 4 years/$70-80 million offer to Jon Lester.

Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRETo the average fan, the offer to Jon Lester offer of $70 million over four years ($17.5 million per year) is not much of a hometown discount. Such a contract would make Lester only the 12th (tied) highest paid starting pitcher in the major leagues (and the third highest at the field in the Bronx). If it were as high as $80 million ($20 million per year), the list shrinks a bit (11th alone) People generally don’t understand that these players are in competition with each other salary-wise, so what seems like an obscene amount of money is, in reality, what the market will bear, and a matter of status, which, to some, can be as important as the dollar amount.

Another factor to consider is that at even $80 million, it would not be the largest contract for a starting pitcher in team history. Lester’s own teammate John Lackey signed an $82.5 million contract over five years. Certainly such a fact is not lost on Lester. His agents would likely remind him that there are only three of the twelve higher paid starting pitchers (Wainwright, Cain, and Lincecum) with two rings in their pocket such as Lester possesses. While the health of a starting pitcher is more precarious than a position player such as Dustin Pedroia, the team was willing to go to eight years with Pedroia. Lester is not going to want to have to go back into free agency at the age of 34. He would want at least the five years given to Lackey (who had health concerns as evidenced by his Tommy John surgery) and in excess of $100 million. Another point to consider is that the team (in the Francona era) was willing to give Adrian Gonzalez $154 million and Carl Crawford $142 million and neither had the eight years and two rings that Jon Lester has.

This writer tends to fall on the side of putting up a contract that would pay Jon Lester more than $20 million per year for at least five to six years. His durability, his grit, his 101 wins (.633 winning percentage), and 2.11 postseason ERA (0.43 in the World Series) in a Red Sox uniform should bring forth this kind of offer. The argument has been made that the team has an abundance of young pitching on the way and the team does not want to saddle itself with the contract of more than $20 million for at least 5 years. My argument to that is that is the going rate for pitchers of Jon Lester’s caliber. There is a reason there are only three starters with two rings (only one of which who won both as a starter) above that contract offer. It is because those guys are special and you can’t let them get away.

Don’t lowball Jon Lester. He is an elite pitcher. Pay him like one.

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Tags: Boston Red Sox Contract Talks Jon Lester

  • Rick M

    I have been through the negotiation process from a union position. Placed in context of our membership – salary comps with similar bargaining units – this offer would have been totally insulting and to repair the damage and trust would be a significant task. How disappointing from an organization that is firmly planted in the market reality of their sport.

    I am sure Lester’s representatives have countered with a more reasonable figure and negotiations can start from that point.

    • Drew Peabody

      thanks for the comment. I agree, this may only be a starting point. I wouldn’t necessarily be upset if I were him, but I would just say no, it is going to take more than that.

  • Willy

    I would NEVER offer Lester any more than $19.5m per, never. If he wont except that then walk away. When it isnt your money being spent people often forget and think things like “Pay the man”… but paying a pitcher who isnt great in the regular season, only a great Post season successor, is irresponsible and would greatly affect/impact the future, so the Sox Must be smart about how much money they offer or pay. The other thing to consider is, over the next 2 years there’s some very attractive free agent Starters available, one being Max Scherzer. Max is a guy who performs very well in the regular season and the Playoffs. Lester is not and never has been an Ace, so I wouldnt pay him like one.

    • Drew Peabody

      I made all the points of why they should pay him but I don’t think “ace” is necessarily a requirement. I think you are splitting hairs a bit, with the 19.5 ceiling. Is it that different than 21 mil per season over 5 or six years? Bottom line is has to be the biggest pitcher contract in team history and 20 mil over minimum 5 years. These guys aren’t interchangeable. Lester is a known quantity. You don’t know how those other free agents will react. Beckett looked great for the first few years then he turned into a big jerk who didn’t care about results. And 19.5 mil is still paying him like an ace.

      • Sean Sylver

        I’m just happy someone called Josh Beckett a big jerk. I will never grow tired of hearing that.