BOSTON (CBS) — Last spring, Jon Lester was a little upset that he wasn’t considered the ace of the Boston Red Sox staff.
Lester was coming off a disappointing 2012 campaign that saw him go 9-14 with a career-high 4.82 ERA, but he was determined to turn it all around. He did just that, going 15-8 in the regular season and 4-1 in the postseason. He was 2-0 in two starts against the Cardinals in the Fall Classic, en route to winning his second World Series title in a Red Sox uniform.
Now he enters a contract year, with few doubting his ability to be an ace. Instead questioning whether or not he’s an ace, now the question is can Lester and the Red Sox work out a long-term contract extension?
Lester wants to stay in Boston, and wants to get a deal done before the season gets underway to avoid any distractions. The 30-year-old has said he would be willing to take a hometown discount, but he knows that working out a deal isn’t going to be easy.
“It’s always going to be a tough process,” Lester told WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on Sunday night’s Sports Final. “If I go back in 2009, that was a tough process. You’re fighting for what you want and they’re fighting for what they want. You have to find common ground on that.”
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Lester and Boston agreed to five-year, $30 million contract back in 2009, which includes a team option for 2014. Lester recalls getting the team’s first offer while on a hunting trip, a low offer that he said was “devastating.” The five-year offer eventually came, but again, it goes back to this being a very long process.
But Lester is confident that, like they did in 2009, he and the Red Sox can find a deal that works for both sides.
“I don’t see why we can’t,” he told Roche. “The hometown discount, that is something I believe in but at the same time everyone’s hometown discount is a little different. I think you have to get into a room, sit down and iron it out. I’m very optimistic on what we can do, and I feel like ownership and Ben (Cherington), I think it would be a lot more difficult if it was a one-way street – I don’t get that feeling. They want me to stay, so that makes it a little easier to find common ground.”
“It’s going to be frustrating if it goes into the year,” he added. “Ben, John (Henry), Larry (Lucchino) and Tom (Werner), I get the feeling they’re pretty gung-ho about it and they want to try to get something done before the season. That being said it’s going to be a hard process. There are going to be times when they bang their heads against the wall and times we bang our heads against the wall. That’s kind of the crappy part of it.”
Lester said he would be involved in the negotiations if his agent wants him in the room, but he stressed that he doesn’t want them to become a distraction during the season. And if need be, he’d be prepared to walk away should the dealings reach that point.
“That’s the hard part, and I think mentally you have to prepare yourself for that possibility,” he said. “The nice thing about the baseball season is you have a long time. There are different points where, and I could tell my agent if they want to keep talking let’s keep it open, but don’t inform me until anything happens; until something is there where you say ‘this is it.’”
Lester doesn’t want to get into hypothetical deals, or think about having to answer questions regarding rumored deals throughout the year, but it’s very clear that he wants to be in Boston.
“For me, this place has helped me grow up so much. I’m comfortable here and I love the atmosphere,” said Lester. “It’s all the things — the tradition, the honor. You go out and play at Fenway Park every night. I take it for granted. I’m playing in the same place that Ted Williams, Jim Rice, Babe Ruth. All those guys that stepped on that mound and up to that plate. You don’t have that anymore – you have Wrigley and you have us.”
Read: Dan Roche’s Red Sox Blog
“It’s a great organization to be a part of,” he said. “The ownership has been great. It’s been a fun place to play, a hard place to play at times, but it’s the cliché that when you go through the hard times, it makes the good times better. That’s true here, but it’s ten-fold. I don’t think 2013 would have meant as much as it did to me, personally, if I didn’t go through 2012. Going through 2012 prepares me for when I go through another bump in the road.
“It’s been a lot of fun to grow up here and I’d love to be one of those guys where, at the end, I say ‘thanks, here is my jersey. I’m going to go to the house now.’ That would be fun, but like I said, to get to that point, it’s going to be difficult. Hopefully we can get that done.”
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