SARASOTA, Fla. — Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington expressed cautious optimism concerning recent contract discussions with Jon Lester, but said it was hard to handicap whether the star lefthander would have a long-term deal in place before the start of the season.
“I can’t handicap it,” said Cherington. “Still talking. There’s nothing else to report.
“I think the spirit of it has continued to be open, sharing information and focusing on resolving it this week one way or the other heading into Opening Day.”
As of now, Cherington said, there was nothing officially scheduled with Lester’s agents, Seth and Sam Levinson.
“We’ve had a number of conversations with Seth and Jon,” said the GM. “I think anytime you can talk and share info and understand each other’s perspective better, it’s a form of progress.
“Saying anything more than that is unfair to the process and inconsistent to what we’ve agreed with.”
Whatever transpires over the next week, Cherington said, he prefers that Lester stay in a Red Sox uniform.
As for conversations during the season, Cherington said, “Right now we’re just focused on the conversation this week.”
If something were getting close, he said, he would hope the sides would continue the conversation.
Lester has said he wouldn’t mind if the talks spilled over into the season, if things were getting close. There’s great risk for a player to allow talks to go into the season. Scott Boras recently turned down an offer from the Tigers to Max Scherzer, and is willing to take Scherzer into free agency.
But what if the player gets hurt in his free agent year? A potential bonanza could fizzle quickly.
The Levinsons negotiated a below-market long-term deal for Dustin Pedroia with the Red Sox last summer at eight years and $110 million.
Lester, 30, would warrant at least a five-year, $100 million deal. If he is seeking north of that, he may face a roadblock with the Red Sox.