Chicago Cubs need one last hurrah from Jon Lester in 2020
After a disappointing showing last year, the Chicago Cubs need more from left-hander Jon Lester in what could be his final season with the club.
It’s no secret. Jon Lester didn’t pitch up to the standards he or the Chicago Cubs organization expected in 2019. The three-time World Series champion struggled to a 4.46 ERA while allowing a league-worst 205 hits across 171 2/3 innings of work.
Despite those shortcomings last season, Lester took the ball 30 times for the 12th consecutive season – a daunting task in today’s game. His overall numbers took a big hit over a trio of starts where he allowed at least seven earned runs. All told, 24 of his 85 allowed earned runs came in those outings. So there’s definitely cause for some optimism heading into next year.
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"“He can still be really successful with the stuff that he has now. He’s doing a lot of different things now that he wasn’t doing two or three years ago,” Theo Epstein told The Athletic at the Winter Meetings (subscription required). “Obviously, as he advances in his career, there are adjustments that he has to make and there’s going to be challenges that come with it. But we’re not in the least bit writing him off. We’re not sort of like hoping that he can hold his own. He’s capable of being a really, really impactful pitcher for us.”"
Lester has full no-trade protection, so he’s not going anywhere. For the Cubs, that’s probably a good thing, despite the fact he’s set to make $20 million in 2020. They lack any other starting pitchers with his postseason pedigree, which we all hope will be necessary come next fall, despite how the offseason has gone so far.
There are few guys in the game as gritty as Lester, who’s beaten cancer, helped create winning cultures in Boston and Chicago and has overcome the odds more than once in his career. He’s approaching 2,600 regular season innings in his career (and another 154 in the postseason) – so needless to say, he’s been around the block.
Chicago is coming off an 84-win season – the club’s lowest total since Lester came to the North Side. He helped lead a young, unproven team to the brink of the Fall Classic in 2015, then played a pivotal role in ending the Cubs’ 108-year title drought the next year.
That season, he and teammate Kyle Hendricks finished second and third, respectively, in National League Cy Young voting. It also marked the last time he eclipsed the 200-inning mark. He’ll need to do that again in 2020 if his 2021 option is to become guaranteed. Otherwise, there’s no chance Chicago picks it up at $25 million.
But you can’t ever sleep on this guy. With the team looking for a new identity and needing veteran leadership, Jon Lester is ready for one more go-round, potentially his last.
"“I’ve been written off before,” Lester said late in the year. “I think I’ve done all right for myself. I don’t care about that. I care about winning.”"