2013 is a big year for Jon Lester in more ways than one. Not only will Lester’s performance have a huge impact on the type of season the Red Sox have, but the left-hander is also pitching for his next contract.
Lester is in the last guaranteed year of the five-year, $30 million extension he signed prior to the 2009 season. The Sox hold a $13 million club option for 2014, but this season could go a long way toward determining Lester’s long-term future. The 29-year-old said recently that he hopes to remain with Boston for his entire career. Just don’t expect a long-term deal to get done during the season.
“If something did come up during the season I probably wouldn’t listen,” Lester said, according to WEEI.com. “I don’t want to deal with it. I think it’s too much of a distraction. I remember how it was in spring training trying to keep it from my parents, trying to keep it from the media, and listening to all sides and making a decision. It was a lot. If we’re talking about a deal — not necessarily like [Justin] Verlander — that is a significant deal, I just don’t want that burden during the season.”
Lester said that the Red Sox haven’t approached him about a contract extension yet, although he finds it compelling when a player is able to stay with the same team throughout his entire career. That’s why Lester is a big fan of the recent extensions signed by Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez.
“You still have to look at it as what it is, the top pitcher in the game getting top dollar from his homegrown team. That’s the cool part to me, is these guys aren’t going anywhere. They’re not making it to free agency. They’re staying,” Lester reportedly said. “Detroit said, ‘You know what Justin, you’re going to be a Tiger for life.’ And that’s the cool part for me. Same thing with Felix. Obviously it’s a little easier for Verlander to do it than it is with Felix, having to struggle through some seasons. But I’m sure Seattle is going to build around him and get some winning seasons up there. It’s not like it used to be where guys would do arbitration, arbitration, arbitration, free agency and they’re gone. I think it’s nice to see homegrown teams paying the guys.
“They’re good deals on both sides. That’s the nice part where you see deals that are both team friendly and player friendly, and everybody is happy.”
Lester is looking to bounce back from a dismal 2012 season. Typically one of the most reliable pitchers in baseball, Lester struggled mightily and finished last year with a 9-14 record and a 4.82 ERA. That may have caused Lester’s stock to drop, but there’s no denying the talent he possesses. When the appropriate time comes, both sides will likely look to continue their marriage.
“I don’t want to go anywhere,” Lester reportedly said. “You talk to the guys who have gone from organization to organization with no stability and they don’t know where they’re going to be the next year. … Just to have that feeling that I got drafted by a team and I played my last day in the same uniform what that same team, that would be special. That would be really cool, just because of the way free agency works.”
Lester was named the Red Sox’ Opening Day starter for the third straight season in 2013, and it wouldn’t be shocking if he continues to earn that honor for years to come. Right now, however, the focus is on making up for 2012’s disaster.