The Cubs have declined left-hander Jon Lester’s $25MM option for 2021 in favor of a $10MM buyout, the team announced. The accomplished hurler is set to reach free agency for the first time since the 2014-15 offseason. However, the two sides appear willing to stick together on a less expensive pact, as Lester confirmed Friday on MLB Network Radio.
Lester revealed that contract talks haven’t occurred yet, but he added, “The feeling is mutual on both sides that we want to try to get something done.”
Lester anticipates a slow offseason because of the pandemic and doesn’t expect to sign imminently, but he’s sure to garner interest from other teams if the Cubs don’t make an earnest effort to bring him back. While Lester will turn 37 in January and is no longer his five-time All-Star self, he remains an immensely respected starter and someone capable of eating innings at the back end of a team’s rotation. Lester amassed no fewer than 171 2/3 innings in any season from 2008-19 and is now coming off a year in which he recorded 12 starts and 61 frames. On the downside, though, he registered career worsts in ERA (5.16), FIP (5.14) and strikeouts per nine (6.2).
Should he return to the Cubs on a buy-low contract, he’d continue to follow Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks in their rotation. At the moment, however, there isn’t much certainty after Darvish and Hendricks. Alec Mills joined Lester in posting subpar run prevention numbers in 2020, though Adbert Alzolay did pitch well over a small sample of work.
Wow end of an era
Seems like he will just sign cheaper, so maybe the twilight of an era with 1 year left on said era
Ducky Buckin Fent
Man, I’m in “option declined” overload. Every time I come back here there are several more names (some fairly big) added to the ranks of free agents.
I’ll *never* remember all this, man.
That make two of us!!
Majority of players with options are likely to be declined. Most teams are going to try to sign players for as little as possible
I bet he signs with the Angels.
You think he’d pick Maddon over Ross? No way. Maybe Atlanta, to be close to home.
Can he hold a runner on yet? Otherwise, please don’t come to Atlanta.
Lester not able to hold runners on is old news, not many steal off of him.
So, no. K
He’s able to hold on runners because he’s quick to the plate. Combine that with a good catcher’s arm like Ross had or Contreras has, runners weren’t able to take advantage of him.
Throwing to a base is still a problem, but I can’t remember the Cubs losing any games over it.
OMG… winner of most ridiculous comment so far this off season. “PED loaded catcher Contreras”…. proof please.
wooooooo…welcome to America where you are innocent until proven guilty except if you area baseball player accused of PEDs.
So, how would you go about proving a negative? It’s kinda like if someone told you to prove you don’t beat your wife.
Look the guy was a nobody in minors til age of like 24
Do you bother to research any of the crap you are spewing?
He had a monster season in AA at age 23, and was ranked ~ #60. He then had a monster season in AAA, albeit in the PCL. His MLB hitting is similar to what could’ve been predicted based on his minor league stats.
Y’all have to pay more attention before you come in here.
Ok sorry he came out of nowhere at age 23 after dwindling in minors since being picked up as international free agent at age 17. I also learned that Jon Lester & Chris Bosio nicknamed him “killer”. Hmmmm!
I still have no idea of what you are talking about. Was there any point where he was not a legitimate prospect? His last bad year was in 2012, at age 20, and even then he had an OPS of .673. And he’d have been in Chicago a lot earlier, except for Montero being a pretty good catcher.
Come on, hurry up and decline Descalso. (Or maybe Jerry’s getting him for Tony.)
Quit teasing us about Anthony.
And they got Max Schrock off waivers from the Cards. Just in time for Halloween. I just loved him in Nosferatu.
Can’t believe they didn’t just fire descalso before this season started. Hurt or not. Complete waste of money.
Nothing would have been gained by releasing him.
I’m more about assessing for future decision than failed ones of the past.
I’m still picking my jaw up from the floor that there was a $10M buyout for 2021. If CHC brings him back you have to wonder what he’ll settle for since he’s already pocketing so much already.
I honestly don’t think Cubs are going to re-sign him. Cubs are going to be rebuilding tbh.
It’s not a full blown rebuild though. Its 2 players max trading. They need pitching(closer) and jeffress was great for them. They need to re-sign him. And maybe a leadoff guy. I don’t get all the love for whit Merrifield. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and they have 22 year old nico Hoerner. Why replace him with a guy 8 years older.
I wonder what the market will be like if they decide to trade away key pieces like Bryant. Not exactly coming off of a stellar season for most of their trade assets and no team is looking to add large contracts right now
I was thinking the same thing. A $10m buyout seems steep.
Ducky Buckin Fent
It seems like good work if you can get it to me.
The 10mil buyout was just another means for spreading out the contract and if I remember correctly that was the 2014 offseason and ALOT of money was thrown around.
You have to think of it as a Cubs option to buy a year of Lester at $15M. I wouldn’t pay him that either.
The good news is that the $10M buyout was already accounted for from a CBT standpoint as part of the AAV of his previous contract (spread equally across the term of the contract). So if he agrees to come back to the Cubs for $7M this year, only the $7M counts against the Cubs CBT even though he’s getting paid $17M in cash.
Are the Cubs that close to the tax?
They will be paying tax for 2020. But I think they’ll be well under it for 2021.
Great comment Dorothy_Mantooth, I didn’t know that
Alzolay fits into that rotation quite nicely.
Yeah, he might just be the guy to break their homegrown pitching drought.
Matt Harvey fits into that rotation
Reds – Winners of the 2019-20 offseason.
The subject was the Cubs rotation, but if you want to talk about the Reds rotation we can. The Reds had a better 2020 rotation and will have a better 2021 rotation than the Cubs. Of course, the Reds couldn’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag, but that’s a whole other conversation …
Yes, I agree the Reds rotation is better and is quite a turnaround from the historic bad it was a few years ago.
I think Matt Harvey is toast and does not fit. Darvish and Hendricks are signed for three years. Alzolay should fit as he’s out of options. Mills is a decent fifth starter/swingman. If they’re picking up Rizzo, maybe there’s payroll space for one of the top free agent starters and a pillow contract on another now that Lester’s deal is done.
And the Cubs will have to fix their real problem – the feast or famine offense. If they trade or dump Bryant’s salary, there will be a flood of players to choose from this offseason.
Wow a $10M buyout is a nice ‘exit gift’ haha… I understand it was all part of spreading out the $ on the initial contract but still… that’s a hefty price to pay to let a guy go… now if they do intend on keeping him, obviously they think they’ll be able to do so for significantly less than $15M, otherwise they’ve just exercised the option.
Am I the only one that thinks he would fit in on the White Sox?
Really? Just like that? Ok.
No. Lester would struggle there. Guaranteed Rate Field is a hitters park especially when the weather heats up. The White Sox should spend their money elsewhere.
Yes you are only one. Lester complains to umps every game, needs umps to give him very wide strike zone and he needs an unbelievable catcher & defense to be effective. Guy is a #4, #5 starter nowadays, don’t pay for that!
Gotcha. I got the last guy. Thanks.
As a White Sox fan, I don’t want Lester. He may have a good deal of postseason experience, but he’s old, gotten much worse over the past two years, and it’s been 4 years since he’s thrown 200 innings. Great career, but it’s over. I’d rather they just give Cease a long leash like they have with Lopez the last couple of years. At least Cease has upside.
I can see that but I was thinking a guy like him and Dallas teaching Cease and Dunning about postseason baseball.
Yes, but the Sox already have a veteran finesse lefty in Keuchel.
So? I don’t think it would be an issue to have more than one. Might give us a game 3 starter in the wildcard round like we didn’t have this year.
Only as a pitching coach!!
Everyone including Lester knew this was gonna happen. 10mil buyout. Maybe 3-6mil 1 year deal. Essentially 13-16kil for one year. Saving at minimum $9mil.
Lester is 7 wins away from 200 career wins so wherever he resigns will need to be a good team. That rules out Seattle (he’s from Tacoma) and many other middling teams.
Angels could definitely be in play (good offense, big ballpark). I wouldn’t discount Giants, SD or Oakland for similar reasons. Dodgers are probably out as they can afford front liners and not guys on the back end of their careers. Cubs obviously are still in play but I think both parties are ready to part ways.
The Mariners are better than the angels right now dude.
In a 162 game season, a 3/4 starter like Lester should be able to get 7 wins on just about any team if he stayed healthy. On a bad team he might be 7-15 instead of 14-10 on a good team. But even bad teams win a third of their games. Figure 30 starts, team wins 10 of them, a guy like Lester probably goes 6-7 in each so he should easily get 70% of those victories.
But as you said, it would be a lot easier on a better team.
Seems like a good bet to re-sign. It’s not like the market for him is going to command much I think he’s worth more to the Cubs than anyone else
Is this Covid related?
Jon Lester is the greatest and most important free agent signing the Cubs have ever made. If this is the end for him on the North Side, thank you for everything you meant to the franchise over the last six years.
Andre Dawson is going to have some very hurt feelings, Kitties.
As much as I love me some Hawk, he didn’t win a WS with The Cubs Like Lester did.
I debated the word greatest. Obviously Dawson was terrific. But there is no doubt Lester was the most important signing they have made.
Needs to retire. Take the 10 million and walk you don’t have it anymore.
In a pitcher friendly park he could put together a solid season, I think. You can never have too much pitching. For 5m or less, completely worth a gamble.
Red Sox Nation has begun panting as a Favorite Son returns for a swan song.
Red Sox nation doesn’t want to see him get blow-torched in the AL East. He got hit hard in the NL Central and that entire division was a joke as the playoffs proved, if you needed that proof.
He wouldn’t make it to the end of the season on a 40-man roster if he returned to the AL East
I know….but it would make a great story. Great stories are what Red Sox Nation might need next year.
I’m not sure I understand what is gained from signing him in December for a $5M “discount” will do for the Cubs’ competitiveness when $5M in April or May will buy a solid starter still in his prime that has been non-tendered.
Sentimentality is what got Theo into this mess, specifically an unwillingness to move any of the Core players associated with the WS.
Sentimentality is what got Theo into this mess, specifically an unwillingness to move any of the Core players associated with the WS.
It would be a little unusual to start trading away players from a WSC team. And a lot of the Cubs were young at the time. Once you get a core like that, you need to try to win as often as possible.
Someone will sign him but his career is pretty much over
I wonder what he needs to be considered a viable HOF candidate. Nearly 200 wins, which is about the max for a modern starter. No one is likely getting to 300 wins ever again. His career ERA is a bit high, but not outrageously so. Plus, you have to factor in his playoff performance. Not to mention the feel good story of being a cancer survivor. That’s not supposed to count, but voters are human beings. I think he is one of those guys that might start slow and linger on the ballot and possibly get momentum to get in on a final ballot or two push. Kind of like Mussina.
He won’t make it. Hall of Very Good.
Several pitchers ahead of him in the pecking order. He might stick around the ballot for a few years.
If he retired today, I would agree with you. But if he lingers for 2-3 years and doesn’t completely embarrass himself, I could see him being a 10th ballot guy.
I don’t think he has a legit shot, even from the Veterans Committee. He didn’t have a stretch of absolute dominance like Pedro Martinez and only twice did he have an ERA or FIP under 3.00 or a WHIP under 1.100. His career ERA+ is just 119 and falling. 19% better than average just isn’t good enough for the HoF.
The thing he has going in his favor right now is the relative lack of great starting pitching in his generation. You have Kershaw, Verlander, Scherzer and probably Greinke ahead of him, His postseason success puts him ahead of Felix Hernandez in my opinion.
He was never the best pitcher in the league in any season, but over his career he was just so consistent. Which pitcher would you rather have over a career, someone like Tim Lincecum that had a higher peak or Lester that didn’t go quite as high, but whose peak lasted much longer?
I’m not saying he is a slam dunk HOF case by any means, but I do think he could build a Mike Mussina like following over the course of a decade. Moose was never absolutely dominant either, but he was the model of consistency.
There are a few other guys as well. I think Sabathia has to be ahead, though he is retired. But he will still be in the same voting era. Sale is still young enough to have 5-6 good seasons. Price could catch up with another 4-5 seasons.
DeGrom is also on a HOF trajectory. And there will be others that could come along and overshadow Jon, too. I think unless Lester has a couple more good years, which doesn’t seem likely, he’ll probably will have to wait until VC consideration. Maybe Theo will be on the panel. That’s his best chance.
I looked him up, but he only has only 70 wins and is 32.134. year’s old. That’s less than Lee Smith. The VC is a good option. I think the guys that are ahead of him are automatic, so he might be the only top-tier SP the committee is looking at.
Yeah I forgot about CC, but chances are he will already be elected by the time Lester gets on the ballot. Assuming Lester plays another 3-4 years and gets to about 225 wins and 3000 Ks, which is really the only shot I think he has to get in. If that happens, CC would have already been on the ballot 4-5 years or would have been elected.
Mike Mussina is an awful comp. He was the best not named Pedro or Randy
I didn’t comp Mussina to him. I said he could get a Mussina-like rise in the HOF voting total.
Although BR does have Mussina as one of Lester’s top 10 comps. So maybe it is not that awful a comp.
Mussina? Not really. As the poster said, he was more a model of consistency. He actually only made 5 All-star games, and only won 20 once, and led the league in some category only a few times. Being able to make 31 starts over a 17-year period, with an ERA+ of 122 is what sets him apart.
Mussina has almost twice the career WAR of Lester, not even close. Lester is about 30 WAR below your average HOF pitcher, I can’t see any argument for Lester making it in that isn’t based around sentimentality. And Sabathia for comparison is not a lock to get in either, but even he has almost 20 more WAR than Lester.
I know WAR is an imperfect statistic but it lays out the gigantic gap between the players we’re talking about.
Without pulling up FG or BR, I see Lester as more of a Pettitte type. Very good, and probably a level under HOF. I just meant that Mussina was easily a HOFer.
Pettitte and Lester are miles apart. Guess I didn’t realize how overrated Lester is around here.
I just looked over his Cubs tenure and man, he dropped off precipitously. That contract wound up being a bad investment. There’s no two ways about it. I’m not saying he wasn’t good. I’m not saying he didn’t have a few good seasons and I know they broke the World Series drought/curse with him. I am saying he was not worth the overall years or money and his tenure has ended on a quiet disappointing note.
He may not have been worth it in the last couple of years, but the Cubs would not have gotten him over other teams had they not offered those years. I a not a Cubs fans, but if I was, I would be happy to trade a WS title for a couple of overpaid backend years. Compared to the money the Cubs wasted on Soriano, Edwin Jackson and others in the early 2010s, Lester’s doesn’t look so bad.
10M buyout. Must be nice
He’s basically a below-league-average pitcher now. Can’t really see a team looking to compete in 2021 bringing him on board. I suppose as a 5th starter. Maybe the Red Sox?
One advantage he brings to the table is he pitches a lot of innings. He’s average 32 starts over the past 12 years, with very little variance. That’s got some value. In the three seasons prior to 2020, he had a 4.03 ERA, with a WAR between 4.10 and 4.39. He was weak/bad in 2020, but he mixed in 7 good starts with 5 bad starts.
He could be a legit #4 for the RS, and super-popular. I wouldn’t break the bank, but an $8M/1, with an innings-based options might out for both parties.
The buyout makes sense. 25 mill$ is too much money for someone like the present Lester. And yes, in the books it looks his contract would’ve been “only” 15 millions, in practice, it’s 25 millions against the 2021 tax cap…
Lester was a work horse for the Cubs in the first half of that contract, which helped the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years, however he declined in the last half of that contact. This was just a business move and nothing personal to Lester, that was why he made sure his agent got that $10 million buyout. It is going to be interesting to see what the Cubs are going to do this offseason.
He’s all done ..