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Jon Lester says productive contract talks continue, he would have a hard time turning down a Max Scherzer-like contract

03.26.14 at 4:59 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jon Lester‘s final tuneup for Opening Day proved a drastic contrast to what awaits him in five days. The left-hander tossed six innings against High-A players, allowing a run on three hits and two walks while punching out seven on 94 pitches amidst the quiet of the back fields at JetBlue Park. That outing will serve as the prelude to his fourth consecutive Opening Day assignment next Monday against the Orioles, a responsibility that serves as a reminder of his unquestioned role as the leader of the Red Sox pitching staff.

But the countdown to the regular season comes with another time of anticipation. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that the team hopes to resolve contract negotiations with the left-hander on a potential extension of his current deal (the $13 million option on the five-year, $30 million contract he signed in 2009) prior to the start of the season. Lester said that he had “no update” regarding the state of negotiations, though he said that both sides are continuing their talks.

“Both sides are optimistic about it. The biggest thing, really anytime you’re talking about this, the biggest thing is communication,” said Lester. “As long as both ends are open and we’re communicating, I think there’s always that chance of something getting done. But as far as anything else, as far as anything else, I can’t really comment on it. That’s up to [the front office and Lester's agents] to talk about as far as details, but I know that communication is still open and nobody’s blown up on each other, so I think that’s a good sign.

“The dialogue has gone well,” he added. “The biggest thing is they’re still talking. We know how some of these things go, where guys blow up on each other and things get ended pretty quickly.”

One example of that occurred recently, in fact, when the Tigers publicly cut off talks with reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. Reports suggest that Scherzer walked away from a six-year, $144 million deal. Lester suggested that, while he didn’t know the factors that led Scherzer to turn down the offer and didn’t want to comment on his decision specifically, in his own circumstance — with his agents, his team, etc. — Lester would have found it difficult to turn down such an offer.

“That stuff is hard to comment on because you don’€™t know. I’€™m not him. I don’€™t ever want to talk bad upon anybody. That’€™s his decision,” said Lester. “If he comes in and he takes six years for $40 million, that’€™s his decision. I’€™m not going to badmouth anybody. They have their own beliefs, their own mindset, their own representation and so I mean personally, if that’€™s me, that’€™s hard to walk away from. That’€™s hard to walk away from. But he’€™s betting on himself. Maybe he really deep down wants to be a free agent. We don’€™t get to do it very often. Maybe that’€™s his ultimate thing, he wants to do it, I don’€™t know. I don’€™t know him. I’€™ve never spoken to the guy so I can’t really comment on that. But as far as personally, that would be hard.

“I’€™m saying in that situation, I think everyone is different. Everybody has different goals, different mindsets. Different representation. They’€™re telling him one thing and like I said I can’€™t comment on it because I don’€™t have it sitting in front of me. If it was sitting in front of me we could talk. It would be tough. Let’€™s put it that way. It would be tough.”

Lester also reiterated his claim that he would be open to continuing talks into the start of the season if the sides are close.

“I think if we’re close, I think both sides have agreed, we’re not just going to end something just to end something because it’s Opening Day,” said Lester. “If we’re close, I think we’ll carry it over. I don’t think that’s a distraction. I feel like if things are nowhere near being done, then yeah, [the Opening Day deadline] is a good thing for both sides. You can come out and say what needs to be said about it and put it on the back burner, worry about playing baseball then.”

Read More: Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, spring training 2014,
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