TORONTO - It looks like Jon Lester’s career with the Red Sox is about to come to a conclusion after Red Sox owner John Henry said in an e-mail to the Boston Herald that talks were off until the offseason.
“Doesn’t mean anything,” Lester rebutted Thursday morning. “There’s been plenty of guys who have taken less to come back. Mikey Lowell had more years and money with the Phillies and he came back. It’s not the end-all for everybody. I’ve expressed to them I want to be here.”
Henry wrote in the e-mail, “I’m not going to discuss Jon’s situation out of respect for both Jon and (general manager) Ben (Cherington) other than to say that both sides have put further discussion off until after the season. It’s clear that both Jon and our organization would like to see Jon back next year if possible.”
Team president Larry Lucchino later echoed those remarks in an appearance on WEEI. “It’s done in part out of respect to Jon Lester and his desire to postpone this until after the season,” Lucchino said.
The prevailing thought around the league is that Lester will get lucrative offers from a few teams on six- and seven-year deals for salaries averaging in the $22-$25 million per year range. And the Red Sox won’t go there in years.
The most pressing situation coming up is whether Lester will be traded by the July 31 deadline.
“I don’t know,” he said of a possible trade. “It’s there. I think about it. Every year there’s that a possibility. If that’s what happens, that’s what happens. I understand it. There wouldn’t be any bad feelings. It’s part of baseball. You have to think about it every year.”
As we wrote in last week’s Sunday’s Baseball Notes, the Red Sox have adopted a philosophy of not over-extending for players over 30 years old.
The Red Sox’ philosophy these days was expressed perfectly in a Bloomberg Business Week article earlier this year in which Henry, who owns both the Red Sox and the Boston Globe, said in response to a study that suggests big money is wasted on players 30 and over: “To me, the most important thing this study shows is that virtually all of the underpaid players are under 30 and virtually all the overpaid players are over 30. Yet teams continue to extravagantly overpay for players above the age of 30.”
And when comparing the Yankees and Red Sox, “It is a wildly different approach,” Henry said. “We haven’t participated in this latest feeding frenzy of bidding up stars.”
It may be that the Yankees will be one of the teams who will bid for Lester. The Rangers, Dodgers, Mariners, Cardinals and others could all be in the market for the durable lefthander, who has had one of the best seasons of his career.
The Red Sox may be looking for a less costly way to replace Lester, especially if they can get a free agent like James Shields within their four-year parameters or make a deal for one of the Phillies’ lefties, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. The Red Sox seem to have a lot of faith in youngsters Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Anthony Renaudo and Matt Barnes as future possible starters.
The news isn’t a big surprise as Lester said at the All-Star game that he preferred to wait until after the season and general manager Ben Cherington has said for the past two weeks that there were no talks planned.
Lester said Henry’s comments “have been consistent with what I’ve known. I guess the news is that he said it.
“That’s been consistent with our side for a while. I think why John Henry and Larry (Lucchino) are saying that now, maybe they felt like they needed to say it because of the trade deadline. I’m glad they’ve said it because it takes pressure off me from having to answer questions and now we can let it be for a while,” Lester added.
Lesters said the initial 4-year, $70 million offer is the only one currently on the table.
“After Opening Day, we haven’t talked money, “ Lester said.
“Like I said, I’ve expressed to them that I want to stay here. Just because we wait until the offseason doesn’t mean I won’t be here. I think I’ve said I just don’t want to have to worry about it day in and day out. The offseason is the right time when there’s no pressure. Like spring training there’s no pressure. That’s why the offseason is a good time.”
It will be the best of times for Lester.
He’ll receive the temptation of a lifetime contract, but probably not from the Red Sox.