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Free Agent Profile: Jon Lester

Despite being spurned by the Red Sox, the lefty turned in a wonderful season.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox are an organization that's rich enough to hang onto its star players, but Jon Lester was one that they were all too willing to part with. Boston failed to extend the left-hander before the start of the 2014 season, and that led to the club flipping him to Oakland in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline.

The Athletics, you might have heard, don't love to pay for expensive free agent contracts. Therefore, it's a near certainty that Lester will be suiting up for a new team in 2015. But could that team be the same one that traded him away mere months ago?

Thanks to a stellar 2014 campaign in which Lester posted a career-best walk rate as well as a 6.1 fWAR, the Red Sox will either end up paying a lot more for the veteran hurler than they offered a year ago, or they will watch him play for another team for the next six or seven years.

It looked like Lester had entered his decline phase early during the summers of 2012 and 2013. During those seasons, he saw his ERA rise and his strikeout rate sink. If those trends continued, Lester wouldn't be worth the huge chunk of change that it would take to extend him.

With the ability to make take the ball every fifth day as consistently as anyone in the league, Lester still had plenty of value as an innings eater, but in 2014 he pushed himself back into the conversation as one of the top pitchers in the American League. Lester drastically reduced the use of his changeup in order to throw more cutters and curveballs, and the switch provided a huge boost to performance. He saw his strikeout rate rise above nine per nine for the first time since 2010. His walk rate was below two per nine for the first time ever in the majors.

Coming off of one of his most impressive campaigns and about to turn 31 years old in January, Lester is set to cash in big time. It's safe to say that the Mets will save their assets in order to improve their lineup, but other playoff contenders with better financial situations could improve their championship odds significantly if they are willing to pay what could be a price of close to $200 million.