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The Cubs should try to reacquire Jon Lester

Wait, hear me out.

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry, but Jon Lester will never not look weird in that uniform and curly-W cap.

Now, on to the topic at hand. The Cubs clearly need starting pitching; the team’s been doing quite well since May 1, but the rotation is obviously in need of help.

Jon Lester isn’t quite the pitcher he used to be. Granted and stipulated; he wasn’t that guy last year, either, posting a 5.16 ERA and 1.328 WHIP in 12 starts for the Cubs. (Incidentally, he came within 13 innings of having his contract option vest with the Cubs for 2021 — if he’d managed to throw just a bit more than one inning per start in 2020, the Cubs would be paying him $25 million this year.)

Around the end of January, Lester was quoted as saying he’d have signed with the Cubs for “just about anything” for this year:

And yet, they didn’t re-sign him, and he signed with the Nationals for $5 million. It was just after that when the Cubs suddenly “found” more money for free agents and signed Joc Pederson (February 5) and Jake Arrieta (February 17).

Lester has thrown reasonably well for the Nats. His season debut was delayed a couple of times; first, for thyroid surgery and after that he spent some time on the COVID-19 list. He’s allowed two or fewer runs in six of the nine starts and one of his two outings that could be termed “bad” was against the Cubs at Wrigley Field May 17, where he allowed five runs in 5⅓ innings and three Cubs (Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras and Javier Baez) homered off him. That’s three of the seven homers he’s allowed this season.

In the eight other starts: 3.49 ERA, just four home runs allowed in 38⅓ innings. That’d work well enough for a fifth starter, I’d think. Overall he’s averaged 4.9 innings per start, not great, pretty much in line with what current Cubs starters have done. Over his last four starts: 2.41 ERA.

It would likely cost almost nothing to acquire Lester from the Nats, who are 7½ games out of first place and likely going to be sellers. His contract at this point in the season has a little more than $2.5 million remaining, and I doubt the Nats would ask for anything more than a low-level lottery ticket in return.

Perhaps a reunion with Contreras and old friend David Ross might rejuvenate Lester for half a season. The Cubs don’t have any lefthanders in their rotation and having one might help — LHB are hitting just .195/.261/.293 against Jon this year (small sample size, 47 PA). Maybe Lester is still ramping up from the offseason surgery and COVID positive test.

I’m not suggesting this should be the only starting pitching move the Cubs should make; perhaps they could go after a bigger name as well.

But I think a Jon Lester reunion on the North Side would help the ballclub.


Should the Cubs look to reacquire Jon Lester?

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