Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell is hanging on to the dream.
As Jon Lester prepares to make his much-anticipated free agency decision, Farrell remains hopeful that the Red Sox will find a way to sign the left-hander. Boston is believed to be competing with the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers for Lester’s services.
“I think we’re still confident we can sign Jon,” Farrell told reporters Monday at the Major League Baseball winter meetings in San Diego. “He’s obviously still going through his free agency process, and as we came into this offseason, there were a couple spots in the rotation that we needed to address and add to, and we’re in the midst of that right now.”
Lester is expected to make his decision no later than Tuesday, according to reports. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Monday evening that Lester is deciding between the Giants and Cubs, but the pitcher’s agent, Seth Levinson, has since told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that the Red Sox are not out of the running.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington met with reporters Monday shortly after Farrell’s media availability. The GM said he is expecting a Lester decision shortly. He plans to meet with Lester’s agents again soon.
It’s possible Lester’s price tag will soar beyond Boston’s comfort zone — CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam reported Monday that Lester’s agents were seeking a $150 million contract — and the three-time All-Star will sign elsewhere. Farrell isn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet, though. The skipper has stayed in touch with Lester throughout the offseason, and he expects the Red Sox to remain in the mix until the very end.
“We’re still optimistic he’ll be in a Red Sox uniform, and there’s a lot of history between the Red Sox and Jon,” Farrell told reporters. “We obviously have a strong desire to bring him back, and hopefully this is coming to a little bit of a head.”
Lester spent his first eight-plus seasons in Boston before being traded to the Oakland Athletics — along with Jonny Gomes — in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes at this year’s Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline. The 30-year-old won two World Series titles with the Red Sox and consistently expressed a desire to remain with the organization, even insisting this season that he’d accept a hometown discount to stay put.
Lester hit free agency at the perfect time, as he’s coming off a career year during which he went 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA. His next contract likely will set the market for other free-agent starting pitchers while also creating a domino effect that will impact both the trade market and the Red Sox’s offseason plans.
“Jon’s going to go through his process as he needs to. He’s earned the right to get to this point in his career,” Farrell said. “And he’s a primary target for a number of teams. That speaks to his abilities as a player and as a pitcher, and I think we’ll address every other need accordingly.”
The Lester saga is nearing its conclusion. Farrell still is prepared to welcome back his former ace.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images