Red Sox and Jon Lester table extension talks

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Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington recently said that he hoped to have a resolution on a possible contract extension for Jon Lester by Opening Day, but he told Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal today that the two sides have decided to “hit the pause button” on negotiations.

Cherington said that there has “a lot of good dialogue” with Lester’s camp in recent weeks, but they were unable to find a deal that worked for everyone and will now turn the focus toward the season. This doesn’t remove all hope for a deal, as both sides are still interested in an agreement and it’s possible that talks could be revived at some point during the season.

Lester, 30, is currently due to become a free agent this winter. He could be looking at a deal in the area of five years and $100 million on the open market.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.