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Source: Red Sox likely to pick up Jon Lester’s 2014 option, but no agreement to do so yet

09.10.13 at 12:17 am ET
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While a report by Anthony Witrado (via twitter) suggested that the Red Sox had reached an agreement with left-hander Jon Lester to pick up the $13 million option on his contract for next year, an industry source said that, while the Red Sox are very likely to retain the pitcher’s services, the team won’t make its final determination until after the season. In fact, the Red Sox typically have not made their final determination of whether to exercise or decline their options until the actual deadline day (after the conclusion of the World Series) on which to do so. Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams have until after the World Series to decide whether to exercise an option.

That said, the Sox are all but certain to maintain the rights to Lester at a rate that is more than reasonable. Lester, 29, has a 3.86 ERA with 7.4 strikeouts and 2.8 walks per nine innings in a league-leading 30 starts. He’s logged 193 1/3 innings, making him a virtual lock to crack the 200-innings threshold for the fifth time in six years, a span in which he’s 87-54 with a 3.67 ERA, 8.2 strikeouts and 3.1 walks per nine innings. Meanwhile, after struggling to a 9-14 record and 4.82 ERA last year, Lester has shown the ability to be a dominant pitcher throughout the majority of the year — though certainly not its entirety:

First 9 starts: 6 2/3 IP per start, 6-0, 2.72 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9

Next 11 starts: 6 IP per start, 2-6, 6.27 ERA, 7.2 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.5 HR/9

Last 10 starts: 6 2/3 IP per start, 5-3, 2.53 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.4 HR/9

In this case, Lester — in the final guaranteed year of a five-year, $30 million contract that he signed prior to the 2009 season — has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the game in two separate significant stretches and one of the worst in a similarly significant stretch. As October nears, it’s been the good Lester — the one who minimizes walks and locates to minimize hard contact — in view.

“He’s been pretty good since February. A couple bumps in the road, like everybody else has, but I think, what an incredible year he’s had, coming back from last year, from what I’ve been told,” said Nieves. “His changeup has become a swing and miss pitch. The curveball is always there. The cutter has gotten better. And he’s a workhorse. He’s elite. Name the lefties in the league, and I think he’s among the best.”

That being the case, barring a drastic development that would change the team’s outlook on the likelihood of his health or performance going forward, the team is all but certain to exercise Lester’s option after the World Series. The bigger question will be whether the Sox will find any common ground with its top pick in the 2002 draft on a multi-year deal.

Rob Bradford contributed to this report.

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