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Hometown discount: Pitcher Jon Lester says Red Sox are his ‘No. 1 priority’

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Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester says he is willing to take a hometown discount as he enters the final years of his contract with the team. According to a report by ESPN on Jan. 23, the left-handed pitcher expressed his desire to remain in Boston, as he will be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.

Winning seems to trump money for Lester, who is coming off of his strongest seasons, helping to lead the Red Sox to a world championship. In response to questions about his pending free agency, Lester said at the Boston Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards dinner:

“These guys are my No. 1 priority. I want to be here ‘til they rip this jersey off my back.”

Certainly athletes have said this before, but Lester seems to be willing to follow the shows of teammate Dustin Pedroia, who took less money to remain in Boston. Lester understands he would probably have to take a discount to extend his contract and is willing to make that commitment.

“It’s like Pedy [Dustin Pedoria]. He left a lot of money on the table to stay here. That’s what he wanted to do. I understand that. That’s my choice, that’s his choice. I understand that to stay here, you’re not going to get a free-agent deal. You’re not going to do it. You can’t. It’s not possible. You’re bidding against one team. I understand you’re going to take a discount to stay. Do I want to do that? Absolutely.”

Jon Lester also mentioned the decision being important to his family also. Although he has not spoken to the team yet regarding his contract, he has certainly put it out there that he is will to take less to stay. Is general manager Ben Cherington listening?

Certainly Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino heard what Lester had to say and stated his appreciation. At the dinner he said:

“I appreciate hearing that a lot. Loyalty is a two-way street, and he has shown that to us and we’ve tried to show that to him over the years and hope that continues as long as he is a baseball player. We love the cradle-to-grave Red Sox player, so to speak.”

If Lester has another strong season and is allowed to enter into free-agency, he would be one of the top pitchers on the market and other teams would be willing to spend the money for a top left-handed pitcher. The rival New York Yankees would love to steal another player away from the Red Sox.

Currently Jon Lester is in the final year of a five-year, $30 million extension he signed before the 2009 season. Last year he was pain $11.625 million.

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