One year after former Patriots receiver Wes Welker departed for Denver in free agency, the similarities between his situation and Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester stand out to me.
I was reminded of this after watching an enjoyable segment on Comcast SportsNet’s “New England Sports Tonight” on July 10, with co-hosts Bob Neumeier and Michael Felger interviewing Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy.
The trio discussed how the Red Sox opened contract talks with Lester with a “low-ball” offer of four years and $70 million, which was acknowledged by Red Sox president Larry Lucchino (via Shaughnessy in the Globe) as a starting point to get talks sparked.
But all the offer did was lead Lester and his agents to close ranks, apparently uninterested in any talks.
This led Felger to say the following on the program:
“And do you blame them? Do you ever sell a house, or buy a house, you’re negotiating and someone comes in so high, or so low, you basically say ‘You know what, I’m not even countering, see you later, I don’t want to hear from you again because I’m not going to waste my time with you.’ So when that individual does get serious at the end of the day, you still look at him cross-eyed …”
That real-estate analogy was actually how I described the Patriots-Welker situation in a fiery rebuttal call to Felger’s entertaining and popular radio show last year when he was critical of Welker coverage (Felger thought it was “team-friendly”, while I felt it was as close to an accurate account as possible based on sources from both sides). Only the situation was reversed – Welker’s agents had started talks with numbers so high (3 years, $51 million) it initially put the Patriots into a similar spot Lester currently finds himself, and by the time things got serious and there were some signs of optimism, the sides could not hammer out a deal.
We can always debate if both sides could have worked harder for a different outcome, and now we’ll see where it all leads with Lester and the Red Sox.
With that, my biggest takeaway is that when it comes to contract negotiations, the only place you can’t lose is if you’re in the seat of the provocative talk-show host. From there, you can pick and choose which side to take depending on how you feel that day.