The Jon Lester saga is over, in the end it came down to the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox. It appears that the Cubs have signed Lester, the prized-pitcher from this 2014-2015 off-season. According to Ken Rosenthal, Lester has made his decision and will rejoin his former General Manager Theo Epstein in Chicago for 6 years/$155 million:
Sources: Lester to #Cubs.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 10, 2014
Chris Cotillo reported earlier tonight that the industry expectation was that the Cubs were going to land Lester:
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) December 10, 2014
The ace now joins a Cubbie starting rotation that is stocked with Jake Arrieta, the newly re-acquired Jason Hammels, and Kyle Hendricks. While the Cubs have multiple in-house options to insert into their rotation, they also have the necissary trade chips to acquire a strong starting pitcher from the very abundant starting pitching market. The young Chicago team will now likely look for bullpen help following the acquisition of Miguel Montero, as well.
Now that Jon Lester—who turns 31 on Jan. 7th—has signed, it is likely that the pitching market will start to take shape. The Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, and Los Angeles Dodgers will have many places to look when looking to make up for the loss of not signing Lester. The market for Max Scherzer, James Shields, Justin Masterson, and Ervin Santana will surely intensify, as well as talks with teams like the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals and more who all have possible trade candidates in the pitching market such as Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Jordan Zimmerman, Dillon Gee, Ian Kennedy, and much more.
As for Lester himself, the Cubs will receive a pitcher who is coming off of a season in which he was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Posting a 2.46 ERA and 2.80 FIP, Lester also put up a 9.01 K/9 and career-low 1.97 BB/9 that has been decreasing since 2010. Even though Lester has seen a decrease in his GB% since 2010 to its current 42.4% state, the southpaw has also seen a decrease in his HR/FB% from 13.9% in 2012 to 7.2% in 2014.
A workhorse, the 3-time all-star has pitched over 190 innings with no less than 31 starts every season since 2008—owning a 33.6 fWAR over that 7 season span. Lester also has placed fourth in the Cy Young voting twice, once in 2010 and again in 2014.
While Lester certainly is a big boost to the Cubs now, he might also help in future moves to come by costing an AAV of $25.8 million and no prospects or players, freeing the Cubs to use any surplus they have to acquire possibly another pitcher for their rotation. However, in the bigger picture, this signing will surely aid the market in how it will shake out the rest of the off-season.