BOSTON - Clayton Kershaw recently got $215 million over seven seasons. On Wednesday, Masahiro Tanaka got $155 million over seven.
And yes, Jon Lester, eligible for free agency in another ten months, has taken notice.
"It's hard not to pay attention to it,'' said Lester with a chuckle.
But Lester, in town to attend the annual Boston Baseball Writers Dinner, isn't looking to set the bar or establish precedent. And he made
it clear that he'd be willing to accept less to remain with the Red Sox.
"I'd love to stay here,'' said Lester. "I would hope they would like me to stay here. Hopefully, we can get something done. When the time comes, we'll worry about it -- if that's spring training, during the season, the off-season next year... Whatever it may be, [the Red Sox] are my priority
and we're going to listen to them first and see where we're at.''
Asked if he'd be willing to get an extension done rather than wait for a chance to go on the open market and allow other teams to bid, Lester
didn't hesitate with his answer.
"Absolutely,'' he said. "I want to stay here. This is what I've known...I understand to stay here, you're not going to get a free agent deal.
You're not going to do it. You can't. It's not possible. You're bidding [with] one team. I understand that you're going to take a discount to
stay. Do I want do that? Absolutely.
"[The Red Sox] know I don't want to go anywhere. These guys are my No. 1 priority. They're going to have first crack. Until that time comes
when they can't have first crack any more, these guys are my top priority and this is where I want to be.''
Lester said general manager Ben Cherington has told him that the team would like to have some contract talks in spring training. That would allow
a deal to get done before the season starts, so Lester's future isn't uncertain and the issue doesn't become a distraction for him or the team.
''Anytime you get into the situation,'' said Lester, "I think that's everybody's goal, is to hope reach some type of [common] ground in the spring
and that way, hopefully, everybody's relaxed, everybody is in the same place. And then when the season starts, you don't have to worry about it and you can just focus on baseball -- one way or another.
"I would like to. If we don't get something done, try to put it off as long as we can to not make it a distraction. But like I said, these guys
are my No. 1 priority. I want to be here until they have to rip this jersey off my back. Hopefully, we can get something done in spring.''
Said Cherington: "I'm sure we'll have a conversation, but until we get to that, it's hard to say much more other than I'm glad he wants to be here.
We want him to be here. We'll see where that leads to. We certainly share an interest in talking about a way to keep him here and we'll find a time
to do that.''
Lester was drafted by the Red Sox and there's a familiarity and comfort that comes with reamining in Boston. There's also the fact that the team has has won two World Series in Lester's career and been to the playoffs four of the last seven years.
The oportunity to compete -- and win -- is a significant selling point.
"As a competitor, you always want to play for a competitive team,'' he said. "I've never been the type of guy to take more money from somebody
else to go suck; I don't want to do that. I mean, that's no fun. I want to win. If that makes taking a [Dustin] Pedroia deal where you stay here for less money to be happy and be competitive and win every year? Let's do it, let's get it done.''
Kershaw signed the biggest contract for a pitcher in history earlier this month, but Lester doesn't put himself in Kershaw's company.
"That's kind of off on its own,'' said Lester of Kershaw's deal. "I don't care who you put next to him, he's kind of in a league of his own.
[He's] kind of like Miguel Cabrera -- they need to go play in their own league and get out of this one. The Tanaka deal, as a player, it's good for
baseball. Obviously, being in the position I'm in right now, you can't help but notice it and wonder and think and talk.
"It's kind of a 'we'll see.' I haven't really talked to Ben or talked to my agent about it much. Hopefully, in spring, we'll have that time to sit
down and do it.''
Lester understands that with the game flush with money, contracts are getting bigger and bigger and he doesn't want to buck that trend.
"You never want to be the guy that takes the market backwards,'' he said. "We all understand, like with Pedey, he left a lot of money on the table
to stay here and that's what he wanted to do. I understand that. That's his choice, my choice, all of our choices.
"But at the same time, you don't want to be the guy that makes that market come down a little bit.''