Spring training looms, and while the Red Sox prepare to defend the eighth World Series championship in franchise history one of the major subplots will be the contract status of Jon Lester.
The imposing left-hander struggled down the stretch of 2011 and throughout 2012 when he posted the first losing record of his career, but he rebounded last year with a strong season. Then he truly proved his worth in the postseason, when he was 4-1 and allowed just six runs in 34 1/3 innings, including a 2-0 record against the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series when he gave up a single run in 15 1/3 innings.
But Lester is entering the final year of his contract and will be eligible for free agency if he doesn't re-sign with Boston before the end of the season.
And given the contracts recently signed by Clayton Kershaw (seven years, $215 million) and Masahiro Tanaka (seven years, $155 million), Lester could command — and demand — significant money.
But Lester is willing to give the Red Sox a hometown discount as long as it's a fair deal.
"I want to stay here," he said. "This is what I've known. I've grown up in this organization. I've had plenty of good times and plenty of bad times here. I enjoy it. My family loves it here. All my son talks about is going home to Boston. That's what he thinks is home. ...
"I want to be here until they have to rip this jersey off my back."
"I understand that to stay here you're not going to get a free-agent deal ... I understand you're going to take a discount to stay. Do I want to do that? Absolutely. But just like they want it to be fair for them, I want it to be fair for me and my family, and if we can hopefully get to something in spring training that's awesome."
If I'm the Red Sox I'd be locking up Lester right now. He's willing to take less than what Kershaw is getting and wants to remain with an organization that is competitive. I'm sure his agent will have something to say about that as will players seeking big money deals.
I'm sure the Red Sox will give him a fair deal and Lester will remain in Boston. It's almost a feel good story where this isn't about the money but rather being in a place you and your family have grown to love.