Cherington mum on Lester negotiations

Cherington mum on Lester negotiations
March 24, 2014, 3:15 pm
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SARASOTA, Fla. -- One spring training contract extension press conference down, one to go?
    
That was the question Monday, after the Red Sox officially announced a new deal for David Ortiz. Now, Jon Lester, who is eligible for free agency this fall, is on deck.
    
"I can't handicap it,'' said GM Ben Cherington. "We're still talking and there's nothing else to report than that. But I think the spirit of it continues to be open and (committed) to sharing information and also focusing on resolving it, one way or another, this week before we get into Opening Day.
    
Last Friday, after his most recent start, Lester said that progress had been made in talks, but that no agreement was imminent.
    
"I think anytime you can talk and share information and understand each perspective better,'' said Cherington, "that's a form of progress, so I think we've done that. But I think saying anything more than that is sort of unfair to the process and not consistent with what we've agreed on with Jon and Seth (Levenson, agent) in terms of keeping the talks behind closed doors.
    
"We have great respect for Jon and he's obviously preparing to take the ball on Opening Day and that's what he's focusing on mostly and no matter what happens this week, we're going to support him fully and our preferred position -- which is that he remains in a Red Sox uniform past 2014 -- won't change no matter what happens the rest of this week.''
    
Lester has also said that he would be willing to have negotiations continue past Opening Day is the two sides were close to reaching an agreement.
    
"Right now, we're focused on the conversation this week and trying to resolve it, one way or another,'' said Cherington, "without getting into the season. Hopefully, we're all reasonable enough people that if it made sense (to keep talking), we could reconsider next weekend. But that's not the thinking right now.''
    
Lester has said repeatedly that he would be willing to take less to remain in Boston, but it's widely assumed that a long-term extension would need to be in the neighborhood of $20 million annually -- the lower end of the payscale for elite free agent pitchers.