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Red Sox Lock Up Lester With Big Extension

Now we know what the Red Sox did with the money they didn't spend on Mark Teixeira. For the third time this offseason -- following long-term deals signed with second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis -- the Red Sox have signed one of the top young talents, starting pitcher Jon Lester, to a long-term extension.

The new deal between Lester and the Red Sox -- first reported by Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan -- is said to be for five years and $30 million. The team also holds a $14 million for 2013, making the deal more than twice the previous high for a player with two years experience; a four-year deal worth $15 million signed by the Indians' Fausto Carmona last winter.

It's a big move for Boston, which locks up the pitcher they see as a long-term ace in Massachusetts. Helped partially by an oblique injury to fellow ace Josh Beckett, Lester served as Boston's ace in the AL playoffs last fall. He lost twice to the Rays in the ALCS, but beat the Angels twice and easily could have been the game-winner in Game 7 in Tampa Bay if Boston had managed any more than minimal early offense.

For the Red Sox front office, the deal also keeps a player with whom the organization has developed a deep bond off the field. Lester suffered from a rare form of blood cancer discovered during his first full rookie season with the team, and after months of chemotherapy he returned for the stretch run in 2007, eventually pitching the clinching game of the 2007 World Series.

All of this serves to point out that Lester has quite a pedigree for a young pitcher. The bigger question is whether the Red Sox needed to lock up his services now to eat up -- at most -- two years of free agency (assuming the team exercises its 2013 option).

What do people think? Did Boston overpay for an asset they're still learning about? Or was this the right move now, saving the Red Sox money down the road?

By Cameron Smith  |  March 8, 2009; 6:12 PM ET
Categories:  Red Sox  
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If he did anything more than fart on the field this year he was going to command a lot more than 6 million a year in the very near future.

The cost certainty of a young ace isn't something to look lightly upon, especially if they're buying out two years of free agency. This is a smart move and locks up their #1 or #2 starter through the age of (potentially) 30. Think of it this way. They got a guy who has similar numbers to CC for the cost of 1.3 years of CC's contract.

For 6 million, the Red Sox's payroll really only needs him to be a #4 or 5 starter, which he is clearly better than.

Posted by: adampschroeder | March 9, 2009 7:04 AM | Report abuse

Gammons reported that the top 7 Red Sox pitchers - Beckett, Dice-K, Lester, Wakefield, Penny, Smoltz, Buchholz - are guaranteed less money this year than CC and Burnett (remember Dice-K's positnbg fee went to Seibu, not Dice-K). $36m to $36.5, counting 2 bonuses for CC. Further, their likely bullpen - Papelbon, Saito, Del Carmen, Okajima, Lopez, Ramirez, Masterson - makes less than Fransisco Cordero ($11m+ v $12m).

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 9, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

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