The Red Sox formally announced a contract extension with slugger David Ortiz last night. Could a deal with left-hander Jon Lester be next?
Well, maybe. According to Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said today that the two sides remain in touch about an extension and that he hopes for a resolution on the situation before Opening Day.
“Right now, we’re focused on the conversation this week and trying to resolve it, one way or another,” said Cherington, “without getting into the season. Hopefully, we’re all reasonable enough people that if it made sense (to keep talking), we could reconsider next weekend. But that’s not the thinking right now.”
Lester is currently due to become a free agent next offseason as part of a field which also projects to include Max Scherzer, James Shields, and former teammate Justin Masterson. The 30-year-old has previously said that he would be willing to take a discount to stay with Boston, but chances are it will likely take something in the range of five years and $100 million in order to make it happen.
Lester is coming off a resurgent season in which he posted a 3.75 ERA and 177/67 K/BB ratio over 213 1/3 regular season innings. He was also an important part of the team’s World Series run, putting up a 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.