FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Jon Lester contract extension talks remain ongoing, even as Lester had his final tuneup Wednesday in a minor-league game before his March 31 Opening Day start in Baltimore.
There is no deal. It seems increasingly unlikely that there will be a deal by Saturday, when the Sox break camp. Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino returned to Boston on Wednesday, and Lester said he hadn’t talked to his agent, Seth Levinson, in a couple of days, which would also suggest nothing is imminent.
“I’ll probably call him tonight, tomorrow, get an update," Lester said. “If something drastic happened, I think he would have called."
Talks remain ongoing, and Lester didn’t back off from his comment the other day that both sides are optimistic a deal can be reached.
“I know communication is still open," he said. “Nobody’s blown up at each other. That’s a good sign."
If Lester is concerned with the direction of the talks, he didn’t show it. He sounded comfortable with the idea of talks continuing into the regular season if the sides are close, or tabling the talks if the sides are not close to a deal. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said he hoped the matter would be resolved one way or another by the end of camp.
“We’re not going to hash out something just to end something by Opening Day," Lester said. “But if we’re close, I feel like, yeah, we’ll carry it over. I don’t think that’s a distraction. But I feel like if we’re nowhere near being done, it’s a good thing for both sides that you can come out and say what needs to be said about it, put it on the back burner and worry about playing baseball then."
Seth Levinson and his brother, Sam, also represent Dustin Pedroia, and initiated talks on an extension for the Red Sox second baseman during spring training last year. Those talks culminated in Pedroia coming to terms on an eight-year, $110 million deal that was announced in late July. The difference in the situations is that Lester, unlike Pedroia, is entering his free-agent year as one of the top starting pitchers potentially available on the market this winter.
Detroit right-hander Max Scherzer, another pending free agent, reportedly turned down a six-year, $144 million extension offer. Scherzer is represented by Scott Boras. Lester said he would find it “hard to walk away from” that offer.
“I’m not him," Lester said when asked for his reaction. “And I don’t ever want to talk bad about anybody. That’s his decision. If he comes in and he takes 6 years for $40 million, that’s his decision.
“I’m not going to bad-mouth anybody. They have their own beliefs, their own mindset, their own representation. Personally, if that’s me that’s hard to walk away from. But he’s betting on himself. Maybe deep down he wanted to be a free agent. We don’t get to do it too often. So maybe that’s his ultimate thing.
“I don’t know. I don’t know him. I’ve never spoken to the guy. I can’t really comment on that, but as far as personally, that would be hard."
Lester said he sat down with Cherington this spring.
“I haven’t been involved in negotiations," he said. “We just sat down and talked. Just talked.
“I think it was good for both sides. Not contract stuff. How often do you get to sit down and talk to the general manager, one on one? I think it was a good thing for me and I think it was a good thing for him. A good conversation."