Contract talks between the Boston Red Sox and left-handed starter Jon Lester will be tabled until the end of the season.
Lester asked the team to halt the ongoing negotiations so that he can focus solely on pitching, and since the calendar turned to June he has never been better. He is coming off his best month of the season in which he went 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA in June, and has allowed only one earned run in his past 23 innings.
“Doesn’t mean anything,” Lester said of the paused contract talks, per the Boston Globe. “There’s been plenty of guys who have taken less to come back. Mikey Lowell had more years and money with the Phillies, and he came back. It’s not the end-all for everybody. I’ve expressed to them I want to be here.”
Lester, 30, is in the final year of his contract and if the two sides cannot reach a new deal, he will become a coveted free agent at the end of the season.
“It’s done in part out of respect for Jon Lester and his desire to postpone this until after the season,” team president Larry Lucchino told Boston sports radio station WEEI. “He’s on an extraordinary roll. His last five or six games, his ERA is I don’t know, 0.90 or something like that.
“He’s leading this team, leading the rotation, and his very strong preference … was not to have his family and himself distracted and focused on something other than pitching and winning baseball games.”
The New York Yankees are expected to be one of several teams interested in Lester when he is a free agent. Lester does want to remain with the Red Sox, a team he has helped win World Series titles in 2007 and 2013.
The Red Sox wanted to continue negotiating with Lester on a new deal, but are respecting his wishes to put off talks.
The Red Sox initially offered Lester a four-year, $70 million deal. The two sides have met throughout the spring, but Lester asked to table the discussions. It is not clear if the Red Sox upped their original offer.