Jon Lester walked into Fort Meyers last season in the final year of his contract last year and many were wondering if he was going to leave the team. After a spring training that was filled with talks about a contract extension, the Red Sox offered their ace a four-year contract worth about $70 million. That was a big move for the Red Sox because they have reservations about signing 30-year old pitchers to multi-year deals. However, when Lester and Jonny Gomes were shipped to the west coast at last season’s trade deadline everyone assumed that there was no way he was coming back to pitch in a Red Sox uniform.
Lester politely declined the offer and asked if they could hold off contract talks until after the season ended so he could focus on his pitching. He was honest about wanting to stay in Boston, so no one thought anything of it. Then, Lester started posting numbers worthy of his second All-Star appearance and later landed him fourth in the 2014 American League CY Young Award voting.
Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes were sent to Oakland, who could smell the playoffs, but needed a bit more pitching, in exchange for Cuban Slugger Yoenis Cespedes. After the trade, Lester said he would not only be willing, but wanted to go back to Boston. There were even rumors that general manager Ben Cherington had planned on trading Lester, then would resign him and Cespedes to multi-year deals. But, unfortunately that was not the case. When Lester left town it was for good. He decided to test the free agent market and did not return.
The Chicago Cubs, along with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, who both worked for Boston at the time he was drafted, inked Lester to a 6-year deal worth $155,000,000 complete with a full no-trade clause. The Cubs soon began to make other moves to accommodate Lester such as signing his personal catcher David Ross. With top prospects just about ready to come up, Chicago was smelling their first playoff appearance since 2008. And although the Cubs are playing really well as of right now, sitting at 35-29, Lester is not the reason.
In fact, the Red Sox were right in not resigning Lester. I bet the members of the front office are all shooting each other sly looks and high-fiving because Boston’s ace, Clay Buchholz, is out pitching Jon Lester. Buchholz has more innings and strikeouts than Lester. He also posts a better K/9 (8.79 to 8.43), HR/9 (0.52 to 1.03), GB% (49.8% to 47.1%) and also has a better batting average against (.262 to .276). Lester’s 3.99 ERA is not far from Buchholz’ 3.87, but their FIPs have a wider margin between them with Lester’s sitting at 3.51 compared to Buchholz and his that sits at 2.81.
After Lester’s departure the Red Sox didn’t sign a legitimate “ace”, so it looked like it was time for Buchholz to take over for his former teammate, and he’s done just that and more. I’m sure Lester will find his groove at some point or another in the north side of Chicago, but right now, he is making the Red Sox front office look pretty good at what they do. Buchholz still has two option years left on his contract and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Red Sox offer him an extension after this season. However, I also wouldn’t be surprised if they are at least listening to what other teams would offer in exchange for the former first rounder. Unless someone is willing to give some top prospects for Buchholz, I would say that he will definitely finish this season in Boston.