Sox nearing new deal with Ortiz; talks intensify on Lester

Sox nearing new deal with Ortiz; talks intensify on Lester
March 21, 2014, 1:00 pm
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CLEARWATER -- When spring training began more than five weeks ago, the Red Sox had two off-field issues to address -- contract extensions for mainstays David Ortiz and Jon Lester.
     
Now, with the regular season opener just 10 days away, they appear to have made headway on both.
     
According to an industry source, the Sox are nearing an agreement on a one-year deal for Ortiz, which could be completed before the end of the weekend.
     
The deal, the source indicated, would be "in the neighborhood" of $15 million, roughly what Ortiz will earn this season in the final year of a two-year deal signed in November of 2012.
     
Meanwhile, talks on a long-term extension for Lester are intensifying, though getting a deal done for the veteran lefthander will be considerably more complicated than a one-year extension for Ortiz.
     
Ortiz's agent, Fern Cuza, was in camp Thursday, fueling speculation that talks were reaching a resolution. Cuza and Ortiz sat down with Red Sox ownership in February.
     
At 37, Ortiz remains the teams' most important offensive player and wishes to finish his career in a Red Sox uniform. Last season, he was one of just three players to hit .300, hit 30 homers and knocked in 100 runs. He then dominated the post-season and was chosen as the World Series MVP after hitting .688 with six RBI in the six games.
     
Lester, entering the final year of his deal after the Sox picked up his 2014 option days after the conclusion of the World Series, said over the winter that his first choice was to remain with the Red Sox, the only organization for whom he's played.
     
He rebounded from a poor 2012 season to lead the team in wins (15) last season, then was brilliant in October, with a 4-1 mark and a 1.56 ERA. He was responsible for half of the Red Sox wins in the World Series.
     
That October performance only burnished Lester's contractual case.
     
Lester is expected to command an average annual salary of $20 million. The tough part will be reaching agreement on the length of the deal, with the club looking to minimize the risk of singing a 30-year-old pitcher and Lester seeking long-term security.
     
While Ortiz's deal could be announced shortly, the Red Sox could well wait to make Lester's deal official, since there are luxury tax threshold implications for doing so after the regular season begins.