The Chicago Cubs have certainly have made themselves a lot better. That’s a fact, because they just added a proven winner, a good veteran presence in Jon Lester to their organization. Lester is a two-time champion, a three-time all-star, and has come in 4th place for the Cy Young award twice in his career (2010, 2014) and has a career ERA of 3.58. Bringing in Lester is a big move for the Cubs, but I’ll get to that in a moment. In this piece I’ll be looking at each person or team Lester’s signing impacts. So let’s get started, shall we?
The Cubs: The Cubs are obviously most affected by the Jon Lester signing. The Cubs are a very young team (in terms of players – not historically), with a core of Javier Baez, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, Kyle Hendricks, and hopefully Kris Bryant soon. The only problem with that was that the Cubs lacked veteran presence outside of Castro who is still only 24. The Cubs first addressed that by bringing in Joe Maddon, celebrated coach who definitely knows how to handle young players, having brought up Wil Myers, David Price, Evan Longoria, and Matt Moore, among others in Tampa Bay. Maddon is a good coach and is good with bringing young players along, and he will help the Cubs immensely, they also acquired Miguel Montero, an eight year veteran and two-time all-star catcher. Adding Jon Lester is more than just giving the team the staff ace they’ve been looking for, it gives the veteran presence of a two-time world champion, a person that in 2013 was part of the underdog championship run. The Cubs rotation looks a lot better as well, as Edwin Jackson has been a disaster (6-15 in 27 starts, 6.33 ERA in 2014) so Lester can be put at the top of the rotation, and the rest of the rotation looks as follows,
1. Jon Lester
2. Jake Arrieta (10-5 2.53 ERA in 2014)
3. Jason Hammel (re-signed to 2-year deal Monday. 8-5 2.98 ERA)
4. Travis Wood (8-13 5.03 ERA)
5. Kyle Hendricks (7-2 2.46 ERA)
In the wings: Felix Doubront and Tsuyoshi Wada
Lester is a horse, and he’s brought his game along to the point where it looks like his career will be extended longer than if he had remained a pitcher that tried to overpower every batter, and the Cubs days of being in the cellar of the NL central may be over.
David Ross and Jonny Gomes: Lester’s old teammates are reportedly giving a lot of thought to joining Lester in Chicago, whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but both could be good veteran presences in the clubhouse.
Max Scherzer: With Lester off the market, and a few teams now going to be disappointed after losing out on those sweepstakes, I fully expect the bidding for Scherzer to start, and it has already been reported that a couple of owners have met with Scherzer’s agent Scott Boras. Lester got 155 million, and Scherzer is seen as a step up from Lester, so I don’t think Scherzer getting near 200 million is out of the question. Expect to start hearing news about Scherzer and possible bidding.
The Red Sox: The Boston Red Sox are left with a bitter taste in their mouths, after believing ever since Lester was traded to the Oakland Athletics, that there was a reunion set for the city of Boston and their beloved son Jon Lester. Now the Red Sox have to move on to plan B, and that may include Rick Porcello. Some reports have said that the Red Sox may be willing to swap OF Yoenis Cespedes for RHP Rick Porcello. The move makes sense since the Red Sox have a surplus of outfielders and need a pitcher badly.
The Giants: The San Francisco Giants are hurting; they’ve now lost Pablo Sandoval and missed out on Jon Lester. I expect the Giants to start feeling the waters on Scherzer as well as James Shields, look for them to make a few under the radar moves as well.
The Oakland Athletics: The A’s were surprisingly never linked to Lester in a serious way, which seems odd since they gave up Cespedes for him, and it seemed like the current fire-sale might have been to clear space to make a legitimate offer to Lester, yet they let him go, so maybe it’s true that the A’s are going back into rebuilding mode after coming out of hibernation for a season, or Billy Beane is just leading everyone one way while he’s going the opposite way. Who knows with that guy.
The NL Central: The Central may no longer be a three-team race between the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds. The Cubs have now shown they are ready to contend, and the other 3 teams may be looking over their shoulders now after maybe disregarding the Cubs for the last few years. The NL Central promises to be one of the most competitive divisions in 2015, if not the most competitive. The Cardinals are arguably the best-built team in baseball right now, the Brewers haven’t lost any key pieces that put them out of the race and of course the Cubs are primed for contention.
As always, thanks for reading, and keep checking back here at Baseball Essential for all your offseason news.
Wow, did you seriously list the Reds as one of the teams that’s going to contend for the NL Central? The same Reds team that FanGraphs predicts to win 76 games and finish dead last?
It’s hard for me to put much faith in this piece when not once, but twice, Joe Maddon is referred to as a “coach”.