Jon Lester laughed out loud Thursday when asked if he had taken notice of the lucrative contracts landed by fellow starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) and Masahiro Tanaka (Yankees) this offseason.
“It’s hard not to pay attention to it,” the Red Sox lefthander said.
Lester, who is signed through the end of the coming season, is one of the pitchers next in line for a new contract. He hopes to start negotiations with the Red Sox in spring training and readily admitted he would take a discount to continue his career in Boston.
“These guys are my No. 1 priority,” he said before the 75th annual awards dinner hosted by the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America at the Westin Copley Place.
Lester spoke candidly about his desire to stay with the Red Sox, acknowledging a loss of leverage if he signs sometime in the next few months instead of determining his value via free agency after the season.
“I understand to stay here you’re not going to get a free agent deal,” he said. “You’re not going to do it. It’s not possible. You’re bidding against one team. I understand you’re going to take a discount to stay.
“Do I want to do that? Absolutely. But just like [the Red Sox] want it to be fair for them, I want it to be fair for me and my family. If we can get to something in spring training, that would be awesome.”
Sam and Seth Levinson, the agents who negotiated the eight-year, $110 million extension for Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia last season, also represent Lester. Lester sees that deal as a template of sorts.
“We all understand,” he said. “Pedey, he left a lot of money on the table to stay here. That’s what he wanted to do. I understand that. That’s my choice; that’s his choice; that’s all of our choices. But at the same time, you don’t want to be the guy that makes that market come down a little bit.
“I want to win. If that means taking a Pedroia deal where you stay here for less money to be happy and be competitive and win every year, let’s do it. Let’s get it done.”
General manager Ben Cherington said negotiations have yet to start. But he acknowledged a desire to keep Lester.
“Because we haven’t even had a conversation yet, I don’t want to start putting a calendar on it,” he said. “But we certainly share an interest in talking about a way to keep him here. And we’ll find a time to do that, start up that conversation.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.