Cubs Rumors: Jon Lester, Chicago Haven't Made Progress on New Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2020

Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester waits to come out of the game during the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Colorado Rockies, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Matt York/Associated Press

Jon Lester wants to return to the Chicago Cubs, but it doesn't appear the interest is mutual.

FanSided's Robert Murray reported Tuesday the veteran southpaw would like to rejoin the Cubs for the 2021 season. However, Murray added that "there has been little indication of progress toward a reunion."

The Cubs declined Lester's $25 million mutual option in October, a move that was widely expected because the 36-year-old is no longer one of the game's best pitchers. That doesn't preclude Chicago from signing him to a smaller contract ahead of the upcoming season.

Bringing Lester back doesn't fit with what seems to be the franchise's priorities.

Chicago non-tendered Kyle Schwarber rather than enter into arbitration with the veteran left fielder. Per multiple reports, the team is also nearing a trade that will send Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres for Zach Davies and four minor league prospects. Team president Jed Hoyer indicated Kris Bryant could remain in the Windy City, but few will be surprised to see the 2016 National League MVP gone, too.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale posited the odds of Lester staying with the Cubs should be improved based on how the offseason has unfolded:

Bob Nightengale @BNightengale

Now that the #Cubs just shed $59 million by dumping Yu Darvish's contract, there's no reason not to bring back beloved veteran starter Jon Lester for one more year.

That implies ownership and the front office would allow emotion and sentiment to override what could be considered the most cost-effective baseball decision.

The organization is lowering payroll after having made five playoff appearances in six years. If this isn't a total rebuild, it's a transition in which the Cubs are looking to get younger and cheaper. Even on a team-friendly deal, that might not leave much room for Lester.

To the extent ownership would look to reinvest the money it's saving, you'd assume extensions for Anthony Rizzo or Javier Baez to be a larger focus.