Jon Lester's real value

Figuring out what the lefty is worth and which team will sign him

Updated: April 15, 2014, 11:49 AM ET
By Dan Szymborski | ESPN Insider

LesterJim Davis/Getty ImagesJon Lester will have plenty of suitors if he waves goodbye to Boston next winter.

Next winter's free-agent market has just gotten a bit more bountiful, with Red Sox ace Jon Lester breaking off negotiations with his club until after the 2014 season. Reportedly, the offer turned down by Lester was a four-year deal worth $70 million to $80 million, generally believed to be a rather lowball offer.

Of course, that raises the following questions: What kind of contract should Lester expect to get in free agency? And if not Boston, where would he be likely to get it?

Unless someone goes absolutely crazy this winter and throws an insane amount of cash Lester's way, his deal won't approach the figures given to perennial Cy Young contenders like Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, or Justin Verlander. Lester was that kind of pitcher in 2008 through 2011, but after a terrible 2012 season and bounce-back 2013 campaign that was good but not near his peak performances, a team considering him a bona fide No. 1 starter -- and willing to pay him like one -- could get itself in trouble.