Chicago Cubs: Looking back at the Jon Lester deal

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Arguably one of the most important free agent signings in Chicago Cubs history, bringing on Jon Lester moved the franchise from rebuilding “pretenders” into legit contenders.

It has been three years since Jon Lester signed a six-year, $155 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. While it was announced that he had agreed to come to Chicago on December 10th, 2014 and the contract was “officially official” on the 15th.

Three years ago today he was introduced in the press conference in which he dawned a Cubs uniform for the first time. For the first time in years, the fans felt like this team could be a force to be reckoned with. The excitement of having one of the best left-handed starters in baseball along with the likes of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler all on their way up was in the air. Not to mention the hiring of Joe Maddon a month prior.

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The Chicago Cubs were ready to be winners. Lester said in his presser, quoted by WGN’s Josh Frydman, “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we couldn’t win in 2015.” Teams like the Red Sox, Giants, Braves and Dodgers all had interest in Lester and he came to Chicago.

Lester’s successful seasons.

Three years into his deal, it has been well worth it. Lester had helped lead the way to three NLCS appearances and a World Series title. Despite the down year in 2017, his overall performance has had way more positives than negatives.

His first year in 2015, the stats are actually better than some may remember. In 205 innings he pitched to a 3.34 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 1.12 WHIP, 207 strikeouts, 5.7 BB% and a 5.0 fWAR. So far that was his highest fWAR season and lowest FIP.

2016 was the year of awards, both personal and team. In addition to a shiny World Series ring, he made his fourth-career All-Star team, co-NLCS MVP and was a Cy Young finalist. His regular season stat-line includes a 2.44 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 1.02 WHIP, 197 strikeouts, 6.5 BB% and a 4.4 WAR in 202 2/3 innings.

Everyone knows last year was a struggle. He labored through many games and had trouble putting guys away in many games, which is very unlike him. It was the only the second time in his 12-year career he had an ERA (4.33) and FIP (4.10) above four in years he started 30+ games. It was also the first time he started a full season (30+ games) and did not get at least 190 innings.

Postseason monster

One of the most important attributes of Jon Lester is his postseason abilities. He was great with Boston and he has done great in October for the Cubs. He has a 2.53 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in 64 postseason innings. Last year he had a 1.91 ERA in three games.

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Overall Jon Lester has been well worth his massive deal. And at 33, he still has stuff left in the tank. There is every reason to be optimistic about Lester bouncing back next year and pitching like himself more consistently again in 2018.