BOSTON — Jon Lester’s free agency looms large, though it certainly hasn’t impacted the left-hander from a performance standpoint.
Lester, who is set to become a free agent after this season, has been forced to discuss his contract situation several times in recent months, with ESPN’s Buster Olney even suggesting Wednesday that it’s all but certain the Boston Red Sox ace will test the open market rather than sign an extension. Red Sox manager John Farrell said Wednesday that he hasn’t noticed any backlash from Lester’s teammates over the attention the contract negotiations have received, even praising the two-time All-Star for how he’s dealt with the difficult situation.
“I think everyone is well-aware of guys’ careers, where they are, what they’re approaching in the offseason. I think the one thing Jon Lester has done a great job at is keeping those situations private,” Farrell said before Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Cubs at Fenway Park. “He’s put them off the side and has focused on his work, and he’s pitched outstanding. I think Jon Lester — the way he’s handled this — is an example for everyone to see a guy going into his free-agent year handle it. He’s done a great job at it.”
Lester is in the midst of a terrific season for the Red Sox, owning a 9-7 record and 2.92 ERA through 17 starts. The Red Sox have expressed interest in keeping Lester, and the 30-year-old has made it clear he wants to remain in Boston beyond 2014. Lester said over the weekend in New York, however, that there’s nothing new regarding his contract talks, leaving open the possibility that he could hit free agency.
Lester said over the offseason that he’d accept a hometown discount to stay in Boston, though the Red Sox still will need to open up the checkbook given the pitcher’s track record, particularly in big games. If Lester ultimately hits the open market, the Red Sox could have some competition for his services, as he figures to be among the best free-agent pitchers available.