Red Sox and Jon Lester still have mutual interest in an extension

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Jon Lester said last month that he would be willing to take a discount in order to stay with the Red Sox for the long-term. While he’s currently due to hit free agency after the season, he recently told CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman that he’s still hoping to work out an extension with Boston.

“I don’t like change,” Lester said in an interview with CBSSports.com about a week ago. “I like being where I’ve been. I like the people. I like the surroundings. It feels like home.”

While Lester would like to get a deal done before Opening Day, he won’t put a deadline on talks. As for the Red Sox, they spoke in more general terms, but it’s clear they’d like to keep him if the price is right.

“We appreciate him saying he wants to be a Red Sox. We’re crazy about him,” Werner said, speaking while standing next to Henry.

“We’d all love him to stay and hope he’s pitching for the Red Sox past this year,” Werner continued. “He’s been such a valuable player for us. It would be a great deal for the organization if we can figure out an extension.”

We could see some movement soon, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reported yesterday that Lester’s agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, arrived in Red Sox camp.

After a career-worst 4.82 ERA in 2012, Lester bounced back last season by posting a 3.75 ERA in 33 regular season starts and a 1.75 ERA in five postseason starts. He’ll turn 31 years old next January, so a five-year extension in the range of $100 million is a possible benchmark.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.