Jon Lester has been pitching for the Boston Red Sox since 2006, and after helping them to two World Series victories, in 2007 and 2013, he’s regarded as a hero in Boston.
But every hero has a price, so what’s Lester’s? Well, the Red Sox and their ace lefty have been trying to negotiate a new deal, but after apparently being unable to come to a deal, talks have been tabled, at least for now.
The good news? This gives us more time to debate how much he is actually worth.
Lets take a look at Jon’s career numbers first, to gauge his talent level. Lester has exactly 100 career wins, to 56 losses in 220 game started. He has a career 3.76 ERA, 1,237 strikeouts, a 1.304 WHIP, all in 1,376.1 innings pitched. He is a two-time All-Star (2010, 2011) and came in fourth in the AL Cy Young voting in 2010. Safe to say that Lester has had more than an impressive career, but how does he stack up against other pitchers around his age who’ve recently been paid?
First, let’s look at Los Angeles Dodgers righty Zack Greinke, who is making on average $26.5 million dollars a season, on a 5-year, $159 million dollar contract which he signed in December of 2012. Both Lester and Greinke are 30 years old, but what sets the two apart, is their numbers. Greinke has more career wins (106 to 100), a lower career ERA (3.65 to 3.76), more strikeouts (1,480 to 1,237), and the 2009 AL Cy Young Award which he won pitching with the Kansas City Royals.
Overall, Greinke’s career numbers are better, but not by much. $26.5 million might be a shade too high for Lester, so let’s keep moving.
Next on the list is Philadelphia Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, who signed a 6-year, $44 million dollar contact in 2012, paying him around $24 million dollars per season. Like Lester, Hamels is also 30 years old, but Lester has slightly more wins than Hamels (100 to 99), but Hamels has a lower career ERA (3.38 to 3.76), and more career strikeouts (1,509 to 1,237). When it’s all said and done, Hamels’ contract is probably a more reasonable comparison for Lester than Greinke’s is.
With the contract talks stalled for the time being, Boston has some more time to decide what they want to pay their 30-year old ace, but after breaking down the numbers, somewhere slightly north of $24 million per year for 5 years is a solid expectation of what Lester deserves to make. Could he take a “hometown discount” in efforts to make this easier on Boston? Absolutely. Could he demand more than he’s worth, and possibly get it? Sure.
Until the ink dries on the contract, everything is just speculation, and none of us will truly know exactly how much Jon Lester is worth to the Red Sox.
Shawn McFarland covers the MLB for CallToThePen.com