Olney: 'Horse out barn door' on Lester talks

by: WEEI on Wed, 07/02/2014 - 12:50pm

ESPN baseball reporter Buster Olney joined Middays with MFB on Wednesday afternoon to discuss Jon Lester‘€™s future with the Red Sox and trade rumors surrounding Jake Peavy. To listen to the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Olney reported earlier this week that the Red Sox were making another run at re-signing Lester, who is the final year of his contract. Talks between both parties stalled in early April, when Boston reportedly offered the southpaw a four-year, $70 million deal. While sources told Olney that the Red Sox have increased their offer, Lester has denied that any new negotiations have taken place. Olney said that it’€™s looking more and more likely that Lester will enter the offseason as a free agent.

“At some point recently, the Red Sox … have been trying to get this thing, at least to get to a point where they’€™re putting an offer on the table, but I think the horse is out the barn door,” €Olney said. “I think it’€™s all but over that Jon Lester is going into free agency and I think the only way that they circumvent that is if the Red Sox do what the Phillies did two years ago with Cole Hamels and say, ‘€˜OK, sorry about that. We’€™re totally wrong and we’€™re willing to give you a top-of-the-market deal for [$140 million-$150 million],’€™ and I think there’€™s no chance of that happening.

“€œI think that the Red Sox [have made an] effort in the last couple of weeks to put an offer in front of him. The bottom line is that the situation has changed. … If they had gone to him in spring training and said, ‘€˜Look, would you do something like five years and [$100 million-$110 million]?’€™ which, within the context of Clayton Kershaw getting $215 million, Felix Hernandez getting $175 million, that would have been a nice, fair, team-friendly, middle-of-the-road deal, but that’€™s not what they did.”

Olney continued: “€œThere is a level of frustration on Lester’€™s side, and I don’€™t know if it’s Jon himself or people around him, because I’€ve never been around a negotiation that’€™s gotten more tension attention* from other players on the team than this Lester talks. The frustration level of the other guys on this team on how this has played out is at a 9.5 out of 10, because they don’€™t get it.”

Peavy has been at the forefront of trade rumors over the last week, as the emergence of Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa has made the veteran righty expendable. While a deal might not bring much of a haul in return to the Red Sox, Olney acknowledged that a deal that would send Peavy to the National League is a possibility.

“€œThey have been having conversations, or at least they did last week with teams in the National League, just to basically poke around and see what might be out there for them. … Let’€™s face it, if they wind up trading Peavy, then the way the deal that would work would be the Red Sox eating a whole lot of money. They’€™d probably get a C/C-plus prospect in return,” Olney said. “€œI do know from talking to Red Sox people over the weekend that they feel like there are mechanical fixes in [Peavy] to be made. … Its not like his stuff has completely disappeared.”

With the emergence of the Mariners and Angels out in the AL West this season, Olney said that the only way for a team in the AL East to make it into the playoffs is by winning the division, as the two wild card spots will be hard to nab at this point. Boston is 7 1/2 games behind Toronto for first place in the division.

“€œIt’€™s hard to project on what any of these five teams are going to do, because they all have such awful flaws,”€ Olney said. “€œI think the one concern now [for AL East teams] is the three teams who are in the front in the American League West are gathering steam and they’€™re moving away, and of course what that would mean is that if you’€™re going to make the playoffs out of the American League East as of today, only way perhaps is going to be by winning the division.”

For more Red Sox news, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.

* - In the original transcript of this interview, Olney was quoted as saying that he’s “never been around a negotiation that’s gotten more tension from other players” than Lester’s. (At the 5:40 mark of the interview.)  Olney clarified that he had been saying that he had “never been around a negotiation that’s gotten more attention from other players” than Lester’s.