The Boston Red Sox appear close to locking up a pair of franchise cornerstones, as the club is nearing a deal with designated hitter David Ortiz, while also entering "intense" talks with starter Jon Lester, according to Comcast SportsNet New England's Sean McAdam. Ortiz's deal is expected to be one year in length with a salary of approximately $15 million.
The 38-year-old Ortiz, whose contract was set to expire following the season, has been instrumental in the Red Sox's dominant run over the past decade that has featured three World Titles and countless other remarkable moments. After slugging .302/.402/.612 from 2003-2007, Ortiz's production "slipped", and he hit "just" .271/.367/.513 from 2008-2011. In 2012, Ortiz appeared to be back on his game (1.026 OPS) before rupturing his achilles in July, ending his season after just 90 games. Fortunately, he managed to stay healthy for all of 2013 and his resurgence was clear, as he hit .309/.395/.564 with a .400 wOBA and 152 wRC+ during the regular season, while adding an otherworldly postseason run that enabled Boston to outlast St. Louis during last October's Fall Classic. Keeping Ortiz in Boston for another year will only further cement his legacy.
While Ortiz's deal appears all but finished, the Red Sox are still far apart from reaching an agreement with the 30-year-old Lester, with Lester himself telling the Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson that the two sides are "not in the red zone" just yet. Lester also indicated that if talks have progressed by Opening Day, he would be open to negotiating during the season (per Scott Lauber).
Jon Lester said the two sides have made progress but are "not in the red zone" in extension talks with the Red Sox.— Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) March 21, 2014
McAdam believes that a potential extension would pay Lester something around $20 million per annum, and that sum seems plausible considering the recent rash of contract extensions for starting pitchers. Lester, who was also nearing free agency, has been Boston's ace since breaking out in 2008. Last season, he posted a 3.59 FIP, 7.47 K/9, 2.83 BB/9, and 4.3 WAR in a career-best 213.1 innings. Since '08, he has averaged a 4.3 WAR, 120 ERA+, and 2.66 K/BB in 205 innings pitched.
Lester has expressed a desire to remain in Boston, even if it means taking a discount relative to what he would get on the open market.
Locking up core players to long-term, below market value extensions isn't new for Boston. Last summer, the Red Sox re-signed second baseman Dustin Pedroia to an eight-year, $110 million contract that will keep him in Beantown until he is 38, citing a clear desire to remain with the organization through the end of his career. Pedroia's deal was less than half the size of what fellow star second baseman Robinson Cano received from the Mariners this winter, and most likely at least $40 million less than what he would have gotten had he decided to enter free agency following this season.