Jon Lester, arguably the top free agent on this year's market, has found a new home with the Chicago Cubs, the team announced on Saturday:
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports first had the report early Wednesday morning:
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports added the financial details of the lefty starter's contract, along with an interesting tidbit about another potential suitor:
Bob Nightengale of USA Today added another contract detail:
Nightengale also had Joe Maddon's thoughts on the signing:
After his initial meeting with the Cubs, Lester had this to say, per Passan:
The thing I liked about ’em is it wasn’t forced and wasn’t a sales pitch. It was like, ‘This is what we can do.’ I don’t want BS. I don’t want show. I don’t want glitz and glamour. I don’t want to walk out to the field with your name and number on the JumboTron. I’m not 18 anymore. I want you to tell me what you can do for me and my family.
The lefty also bid farewell to Red Sox fans on Twitter on Wednesday:
Lester doesn't have a Cy Young Award like Max Scherzer, but he set career bests in innings pitched (219.2), ERA (2.46) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.58) in 2014, per Baseball Reference. Being left-handed and showing that kind of dominance doesn't hurt.
Lester also comes with the added benefit of postseason success. He was left in too long during Oakland's American League Wild Card Game loss against Kansas City, coughing up six earned runs on eight hits in 7.1 innings, but he has otherwise been spot on.
In fact, as Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe noted before Game 1 of this year's World Series, Lester's Fall Classic success is eerily similar to what Madison Bumgarner had done up to that point:
Lester's benefits to the Cubs were enough to earn him a Sports Illustrated cover, as pointed out by MLB Fan Cave:
In his breakdown of the top 50 free agents, ESPN's Keith Law (subscription required) noted Lester's arsenal and ability are the type that tend to age well as he gets deeper into his 30s:
Lester, like Scherzer, has been extremely durable, with seven straight seasons of 31 or more starts and 191 or more innings, suffering no injury more serious than a lat strain in July 2011. Because he doesn't rely as much on power as Scherzer does, I'm a little more optimistic about what the back end of a long-term deal for Lester might look like...
Law does acknowledge that Lester's declining ground-ball rate and increased line-drive rate are a little worrisome, though not enough to significantly diminish his value.
Few pitchers offer the combination of durability and dominance that Lester has throughout his career, with seven straight seasons of at least 191.2 innings pitched and six straight years with at least 166 strikeouts. He's a difference-making starting pitcher capable of carrying a rotation in October, as he did in 2013.
This is obviously a huge addition for the Cubs, who are trying to re-establish themselves as a force with which to be reckoned. The additions of a surefire ace in Lester and a successful manager in Joe Maddon have made Chicago one of the big winners this winter.