BOSTON (CBS) — Jon Lester is gone, and now a member of the Oakland A’s. He was the centerpiece in one of the strangest days in Boston Red Sox history on Thursday, a day that saw GM Ben Cherington re-shape his baseball team for the second time in the last three years.
Departing with Lester: Johnny Gomes (Oakland), John Lackey (St. Louis), Stephen Drew (Yankees), Andrew Miller (Baltimore), Felix Doubront (Cubs) and Jake Peavy (San Francisco).
But Lester is the real deal from Thursday. It’s been a bizarre 2014 for the 30-year-old left-hander, and it got even stranger on trade deadline day.
Let’s review and look at where we are and how we got here in this whole affair:
— The Red Sox won the 2013 World Series with David Ortiz and Jon Lester leading the way. Lester went 4-1 in the postseason and 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA in two World Series starts.
— Lester, set to become a free agent after the 2014 season, told reporters in spring training he was willing to take a “hometown discount” to stay in Boston.
— Larry Lucchino told reporters early in spring training when asked about Lester: “One of the highlights of the offseason were the comments Jon made about the organization and wanting to stay here. He was so forthright and blunt about it. There was no game playing. It was really nice to hear it when you’re in our position. So, we will explore that matter as well during spring training.”
— The Sox offer Lester a four-year, $70-million deal (AAV $17.5-million) during spring training as a starting point.
— Realizing how far apart both sides were, the two sides agree to table talks until after the season. But it feels like that request is coming from the Lester camp, as perhaps Lester is blown away by how low the offer was.
— The Red Sox tried to re-start negotiations at the All-Star break and their effort failed. Although, it appears that if the Sox made a quick offer of fair market value,
perhaps Lester would have listened — maybe, somewhere around five to seven years at $24-28 million per year. But that never happened.
–Lester will now take his talents to the west coast for the rest of the regular and postseason as he tries to help the A’s win a World Series title. It’s a great opportunity for him.
— There is speculation out there that Lester will re-sign with the Red Sox, and he has said he will give the Sox a chance to sign him when he hits the open market. It was interesting to see John Henry hug Lester good-bye as well as pull him aside before he left Fenway on Thursday. I would love to Lester back, but…
1) why didn’t the Sox get it done earlier when it would have been much cheaper?
2) once a free agent leaves and/or hits the open market, they rarely ever come back and sign.
But, maybe Lester will return and pitch for Boston. Why not? Stranger things have happened, right?
So we now wait and watch as this thing unfolds. However, it’s also a good time to reflect back on a great Red Sox career:
–Lester made his major league debut on June 10th, 2006, a 7-4 loss to the Texas Rangers. Lester went 4.1 innings, giving up three runs on five hits while walking four and striking out four.
— Lester would go 7-2 in 15 starts in his rookie campaign before shockingly being diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer. It was a tough blow for Lester, his family, and the organization.
— However, he tackled that like he did almost every pitch; he took a deep breath,stepped up, and battled. The next season, he was back on the mound doing what he loves.
— That season, Lester started and won Game 4 of the Red Sox sweep of the Colorado Rockies in the World Series, giving the Red Sox their second title in four years.
–Lester would have his ups and downs (mostly ups) the rest of the way in a Red Sox uniform. He would become the leader of a talented Sox staff following in the footsteps of Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, and Josh Beckett. He accepted it with his low-key demeanor. He matured from a kid to a man during his time too. He was the front man when the starters went through the collapse of 2011 – both on and off the field. He took responsibility for the infamous “beer and chicken” shenanigans. He also became a Dad, and really, grew up here in Boston.
— Lester reached another height in his pitching career when he dominated the 2013 postseason, going 4-1 with a 2-0 mark in the World Series. Nobody was going to beat him when he took the mound. That’s the feeling you got each postseason start.
Finally, what I liked about Jon Lester is that he is just a normal guy. He has no ego, is low-key, but with a great sense of humor. He is a simple guy; gets up, goes to work, and simply does his job. He loves what he does and loves his family and friends. There’s no side-show. He loves his truck, his home, and country music. That’s it. And, he’s genuine. You’d be proud to call him your son.
So, where do we go from here? Well, it looks like the Red Sox go on for the present and probably the future. They have a lot of young arms in the organization that are ready to go.
However, one can only hold out hope that John Henry finds a way to get a deal done with Lester when he hits the free agency market. The odds are not in the Sox favor, but who knows? Lester has surprised folks his whole life. Maybe at the end he gets an offer that didn’t seem was ever going to come from Boston and he finds a way to return and finish his career in a Red Sox uniform.
That would be the perfect ending to one of the best stories in Red Sox history.
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