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.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.