Lester pitched like an ace during Boston's World Series run.
For Lester, it was a remarkable turnaround for a pitcher who I thought at the All-Star break might be in danger of being kept out of the Red Sox's playoff rotation and having his option for 2014 declined.
But, a funny thing happened to Lester on his way out of town. He started to resemble the pitcher who went 19-9 in 2010 and won 34 games between 2010 and 2011. He started to become the workhorse ace at the front of the rotation, something it seemed everyone had hoped would happen with the trade of Josh Beckett and the hiring of manager John Farrell.
Getting lost in the shuffle of the Red Sox World Series celebration was the fact Boston had picked up Lester's $13 million option for 2014, which seems like a relative bargain given the fact that qualifying offers for free agents this winter are $14.1 million.
But, it's time for the Red Sox to take things a step further. The Red Sox need to get a contract extension done with Lester this winter. Lester sounds like he would be very receptive to staying in Boston long-term.
Four recently signed contracts in baseball might give the Red Sox a clear picture of what they might looking at with Lester. The recent contract extension for 31-year-old Adam Wainwright came in at five years and $97 million from the St. Louis Cardinals. Then 31-year-old Jered Weaver signed a deal for five years and $85 million. Beckett was signed by the Red Sox to a four year deal worth $68 million at the age of 31. John Lackey signed with the Red Sox for $82.5 million over five years.
All four pitchers are similar to Lester in age and career comparisons. The average yearly salaries run from roughly $16 million to $19 million. If the Red Sox use these contracts as a guideline for a four- or five-year deal, I think it could be a fair move for both sides.
Lester may never reach stardom and become the perennial Cy Young candidate everyone had projected for him earlier in his career, but if he becomes Boston's version of Andy Pettitte, that would hardly be a disappointment. Pettitte retired this year after winning 256 regular season games for the New York Yankees.
Lester has reached 100 career wins before the age of 30. He has also pitched over 200 innings in five of the past six season, meaning he takes the ball every turn of the rotation.
More important, Lester showed something in the playoffs and World Series with his performance and maturity. He can match up against the other team's ace and come out on top. The Red Sox struggled to score runs for most of the postseason, but Lester still found a way to keep his team in the game and in a position to win.
The Red Sox face many tough decisions this winter as they look to repeat in 2014. Getting Lester signed long-term should be one of the easier decisions the Red Sox front office has to make.