On WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan Show this morning, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino stated that the team was going to table extension talks with Jon Lester for the remainder of the season.
This should not come as a surprise as it’s just the latest chapter in a long line of failed negotiations between the Red Sox and ace Jon Lester. Once a nearly sure bet that the team would extend Lester, negotiations took a turn for the worse when the team lowballed him with a 4 year/$70M contract offer in March. From that point on, the Red Sox have failed to lock up their star pitcher, who is having a career year with free agency on the horizon, at every turn. Just last week, Lester commented that he was “thrown off” by Boston’s attempts at mid-season negotiations and since then, tabling extension talks has seemed inevitable.
If there’s any silver lining to talks being tabled now, it’s that the front office will be able to focus fully on trades with the deadline looming just a week away. However, that small beacon of optimism pales in comparison to the possibility of losing Lester, who has been a stalwart in their rotation since 2007 and is currently in the midst of a career year.
Lester, who made the third All-Star Game of his career and tossed an inning in the American League’s 5-3, has been one of the elite left-handers in baseball this season. His fWAR of 4.5 is the best of any left-hander in baseball (that’s right, better than Clayton Kershaw) and trails just Felix Hernandez among all pitchers in Major League Baseball. His 2.50 ERA and 2.04 BB/9 are the best marks of his career and his 9.3 K/9 is his highest strikeout rate since 2010, when he finished fourth in Cy Young voting.
Needless to say, his price has risen considerably over the course of the season and likely will continue to do so if Lester continues his performance. The Red Sox do have the resources to lock him up; the question is simply how much Red Sox brass is willing to pay. Before the season, Lester said that he would accept a hometown discount, but it’s worth wondering if that discount is even on the table any more considering how poorly the Red Sox have handled negotiations and if it is around, how much money would Lester be willing to shave off of the potential contract offers he’ll receive.
Either way, we’ll have to wait until October so Red Sox fans had better get comfortable.