The consensus since the Boston Red Sox traded Jon Lester to the Oakland Athletics at the trade deadline has been that Lester, a free agent at season’s end, very well may end up back in Boston next season.
But, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Lester returning to Boston this upcoming winter is viewed as a long shot.
Back in Spring Training, the Red Sox offered Lester a four-year deal, reportedly worth $70 million. It was believed the two sides were far apart on a contract, and negotiations were eventually halted. This led to Lester’s departure to Oakland, with Boston acquiring Yoenis Cespedes.
Lester could command well over $100 million on the open market, with many teams potentially competing for his services. Per Heyman’s report, the belief is the Red Sox won’t more than double their initial offer of $70 million, if Lester has offers in the $150 million range.
Lester will begin the 2015 season at the age of 31. An ace pitcher such as Lester should be able to get a deal of six or seven years, which is considerably longer than the Red Sox spring offer of four years. It remains to be seen if Boston would be comfortable committing to a deal that long.
If Lester doesn’t return to Boston, two team’s believed to be in the hunt this winter are the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs. The Yankees have “admired” Lester for years, according to Heyman. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has also shown he isn’t afraid to pay top dollar for pitching.
The Cubs shouldn’t be counted out either. Cubs President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are both formerly of Boston. Both are very familiar and close with Lester. The up-and-coming Cubs have also shown a willingness to pay for pitching. They submitted an offer in excess of $100 million for Masahiro Tanaka, before he signed with the Yankees. The Cubs also claimed Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels this season, but the two team’s couldn’t agree to a deal.
When free agency starts, Lester should have no shortage of team’s interested in him. It’s expected he’ll receive offers of over $100 million, and possibly as much as $150 million. It remains to be seen if the Red Sox would raise their offer, or if Lester would return to the Red Sox for less money. The Red Sox will likely have to compete with other high-bidders if they want to bring Lester back to Boston.