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.