I was literally just about to turn over and go to sleep. I refreshed Twitter one last time...and there it was:
Sources: Lester to #Cubs.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 10, 2014
Well hell yes! Jon Lester chose the Cubs, after eliminating a couple of the other teams that had been after him.
It's reportedly a six year, $155 million deal, with an option for a seventh year. By the end of the deal, Lester will be 37 or 38 years old.
So what does this mean for the Cubs going forward?
First and foremost, it means they've added a top of the rotation starter who will help them immediately. To me, it also signals that Theo and Jed think they're ready to switch from rebuilding mode to contention. I've been saying all offseason that with the young players either up or about to be up, they should flirt with .500. Now, perhaps we can expect 85-86 wins?
Pitching is great, and necessary. Don't get me wrong, I'm ecstatic about the signing. I think Lester will be a damn good addition. But the fact is, the Cubs' struggles last year weren't solely on the mound. The Cubs scored the 5th fewest runs in all of baseball last season. You don't need a degree in sabermetrics to know that scoring more runs than the other team is important.
The Cubs used a straight-forward approach to recruiting Lester, and even went outside the box and tugged on his charity work heartstrings by bringing in their Community Relations people. Lester told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
“The thing I liked about ’em is it wasn’t forced and wasn’t a sales pitch,” Lester said after his meeting with the Cubs. “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.”
This isn't Carmelo Anthony at the United Center. They didn't have to have Kris Bryant mashing home runs in the cage while Lester walked by. Theo and Jed used their history with the guy (they drafted him in Boston) to help make the connection.
I do hope the contract is more frontloaded, because let's face it...anytime you give a pitcher a long term deal, it's a big gamble. Especially one who's north of 30. I'd like the Cubs to be able to get out of the deal if, after four years, Lester becomes ineffective. I understand that pitching costs money, but sometimes it's worth the gamble. This time, I think it is.
Lester joins Jake Arrieta and Travis Wood at the top of the Cubs' rotation. Now if only the Cubs can figure out the back half, we could be looking at a formidable starting five. All of the pieces are starting to fall into place. It's going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Couple the Lester move with what the White Sox did over the past 48 hours, and we've got a very exciting summer in the making. When was the last time there was this much excitement over BOTH teams in this city?
Oh, by the way, just about two months until pitchers and catchers report.