Boston Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, who overcame cancer to become one of the best pitchers in the American League, has agreed to a five-year, $30 million contract extension with a $13 million team option in 2014, a source close to the team told Yahoo! Sports.
The 25-year-old Lester received the third long-term extension Boston has given to a homegrown player in the last three months. Reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia received a six-year, $40.5 million deal with an $11 million option in 2015, and Kevin Youkilis signed a four-year, $41 million contract that bought out two years of free agency.
The deal is contingent on Lester passing a physical Tuesday. The impending deal is the largest given to a pitcher with around two years of service time, doubling the four-year, $15 million deal Cleveland's Fausto Carmona signed at the beginning of last season. If the Red Sox exercise the option, they will have kept Lester off the free-agent market for two years.
Boston's commitment to Lester is significant in its attempt to build a core of players who ascended through the system. And it is doubly so for a player whose career was in doubt less than three years ago.
During Lester's rookie season in 2006, doctors diagnosed him with a rare form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Though he was declared cancer-free later that year, Lester didn't return to the Red Sox until late July 2007.
By the end of the season, Lester was on the mound for the Red Sox in the World Series. He threw 5 2/3 shutout innings and earned the victory in the championship-clinching Game 4, setting up his breakout season in 2008.
He went 16-6 with a 3.21 earned-run average last year, his fastball sitting at 96 mph – a couple ticks above his pre-cancer velocity – and his curveball turning into a devastating strikeout pitch.
Though Lester allowed one run or fewer in 14 of his 33 regular-season starts, the apex of his season came May 19, when he no-hit Kansas City at Fenway Park.