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Buster Olney on M&M: ‘Middle ground is apparent’ for Jon Lester extension

04.02.14 at 2:33 pm ET
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ESPN MLB insider Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about Jon Lester‘€™s contract negotiations and other Red Sox and MLB news. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington recently said that the Red Sox and Jon Lester‘€™s representatives were “going to hit the pause button” on contract talks. Olney sees a happy medium for both sides, but he indicated Lester will have to be the one to seal the deal.

“I don’€™t think they’€™re close, but I think the middle ground is apparent,” Olney said. “I think the Red Sox‘ comfort level is probably four years, [$20 million]-something a year and I think Lester is probably looking for six years, probably [$20 million]-something a year. And the middle ground is going to be somewhere in five years and $110 million, $115 million, $120 million, whatever number they come upon. And they’€™re both going to have to go out of their comfort zones.”

Added Olney: “It’€™s going to be because Jon Lester makes it happen, the way that Dustin Pedroia made it happen last year. The Red Sox, philosophically, are not going to box themselves in.”

On Tuesday, CC Sabathia did not look like his previous dominant self, pitching six innings and giving up eight runs on six hits. While Olney concedes that he did look bad, he noted that Sabathia can make it work based on what he saw in spring training.

“I think early on, yesterday, CC Sabathia was absolutely terrible,” Olney said. “And I talked to some scouts this morning about it and they were like, ‘Oh my god, he was in the middle of the plate, he wasn’t throwing hard.’ … He did have times in spring training like he — it looks like he’€™s been able to start to figure out how to pitch with less stuff. But man, he was terrible yesterday.”

Miguel Cabrera signed a reported eight-year, $248 million contract extension last week with two years left on his deal. Many were puzzled by the large investment in the 30-year old, whom Olney sees as an offensive player only.

“He already is kind of a glorified DH,” Olney said. “€œWe just saw David Ortiz get the highest salary for a DH, $16 million. They’€™re going to pay him twice that. And that’€™s why people all around baseball are scratching their heads about that deal.”

Added Olney: “€œEveryone thinks he’€™s a great player, but they do think at some point he’€™s going to be worth a lot less than what they’€™re going to pay him.”

While there haven’€™t been any major issues with instant replay so far, Olney said the system can improve by removing the manager’s ability to challenge and having an automatic review for close calls.

“€œWhy are the managers even part of this,” Olney said. “Why have a challenge system? Why not just have something in place, an official, or a fifth umpire and a crew is involved and if there’€™s a mistake, they can correct it.”

Read More: David Ortiz, Jon Lester, miguel cabrera, Red Sox
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