The deal, six-years at $155 million, includes a signing bonus of at least $20 million, with a vesting option for a seventh year. In the end it could be worth up to $170 million for Lester. The deal makes him the second highest paid pitcher annually, behind only Clayton Kershaw and his seven-year, $215 million deal. Kershaw makes $30.7 per season, Lester will sit at $25.8.
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But believe it or not, it wasn’t just about the money. It’s been long talked about “the plan” that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have had since their arrival. A plan that many were wondering if it actually existed. Yes, the Cubs had improved their farm system. But with constant losing seasons, and no results at the Major league level, some began to question it.
It’s true, Epstein and Hoyer have a past relationship with Lester. But it was the city of Boston more than these two that he was tied to. So it can’t be understated what Theo and Co. have done. They sold Lester on a team that had been at or near the bottom of the NL Central since their arrival. They sold him on the potential of these young players. On playing in one of baseball’s great cathedrals, something he had in Boston.
Lester turned away the Giants before they even made their final offer, which very likely could have been more than the Cubs. Because it wasn’t the right place for his family. Boston, which was thought to be out of the race a few days ago, was still very much alive. But in the end the message Epstein and Hoyer conveyed was clear. The Cubs aren’t the “loveable losers” anymore. Lester could be part of something great, bringing World Series titles to two different cities that had seen terrible bouts of futility. And he would be the key piece to start it all. The Cubs changed the course of their organization and future by signing Lester.
Hopefully, as an avid supporter of said plan, this hopefully will help doubters see the bigger picture. Yes, their have been hiccups (Jackson and Veras), but overall it’s been on schedule, and now very well could be considered ahead of that. The hiring of Joe Maddon shot expectation through the roof. Lester’s signing? Upper atmosphere. I’m not sure they can do much else, but if they do, it will be hard to temper expectations.