Chicago Cubs: Early predictions for the starting rotation

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

Chicago Cubs: Lester hoping to put the final touch on brilliant run

It is hard to believe Jon Lester signed with the Cubs five years ago and will be entering the final guaranteed year of his contract. He has a team option in 2021 worth $25 million, but right now it doesn’t look likely the team will pick it up.

The option could vest, in theory – but Lester would need to eclipse 200 innings, something he hasn’t done since 2016.  Everything he has done since leading the team to a World Series title has been gravy on the deal, including an All-Star appearance in 2018.

So what is left in the tank for ole’ Jonny?

Probably not much, but enough to at least pass by. At age 36 we have seen the slow decline of the three-time World Series champion the past several years. Last year he sported a 4.46 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 1.5 WHIP, 10.7 H/9, 8.7 K/9, 2.7 H/9 and a 2.8 fWAR in 171 2/3 innings. His fWAR last year was higher than that of 2018 as were his strikeout numbers and his FIP was lower, but the WHIP was a career-worst in seasons which he made 30+ starts. Furthermore, his H/9 was a overall career-high.

Overall these numbers are not horrible, but they are not what in-prime Lester did for the Red Sox and early Cubs days. This really can just be explained by aging and miles on the arm. In 14 years he has 2,537 2/3 innings under his belt which does not even count the additional 154 postseason innings. At this point we cannot expect the same Lester, but we can hope for a decent one. Regardless his contract was 100 percent worth it.

2020 prediction: 4.29 ERA, 4.65 FIP, 1.5 WHIP, 161 K, 60 BB, 31 starts, 179 innings