Sources: Jon Lester would listen during season if Red Sox offer led to short negotiations

Rob Bradford
July 04, 2014 - 6:20 pm

Not so fast. While CBS Sports reported Friday that Jon Lester had told the Red Sox he would not be inclined to negotiate a contract extension during the season -- citing the pitcher's desire to focus on his (and the team's) performance on the field -- multiple industry sources indicate there is no set-in-stone mandate to wait to rekindle talks until the offseason. According to the sources, if the Red Sox presented an offer that would facilitate a short negotiating process then Lester would, indeed, listen. The Red Sox recently attempted to re-engage in talks with the pitcher, but without indications an offer would be made resulting in an abbreviated negotiations, Lester expressed the desire to hold off on further contract discussions. The team has seemingly taken the approach of starting on the low end of Lester's perceived market value, coming in with an initial offer of four years at $70 million. It is the same strategy taken by the Red Sox in talks with Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. It is believed that an offer in the vicinity of five years, $120 million -- which would be somewhat in line with what Philadelphia's Cole Hamels signed for when inking his six-year, $144 million (with a $20 million club option for 2019) -- would be in the neighborhood of what might lead Lester to giving the go-ahead for talks to resume. (For what it's worth, Hamels signed his deal on July 25.) Since breaking off talks at the end of spring training, Lester has consistently expressed a desire to keep all focus on his pitching performance, not contract discussions. In 17 starts this season, the lefty has a 9-7 record with a 2.92 ERA in 114 innings, striking out 115 and walking 29. He is scheduled to start the first game of the Red Sox' doubleheader against the Orioles, Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park.