The Chicago Cubs announced Friday they had declined their 2021 contract option for starting pitcher Jon Lester, allowing him to hit the free agent market.
Lester posted a 3-3 record with a 5.16 ERA in 12 starts last season, the final year of a six-year pact he signed with the Cubs prior to the 2015 season. During his time with the team, Lester posted a 77-44 record with a 3.64 ERA.
According to a press release from the Cubs, Lester’s .636 winning percentage is the best among lefthanded pitchers in team history, and his 77 victories are fifth-most all-time among southpaws.
Lester’s arrival in Chicago was part of a massive surge forward for the team. Accompanied by then-manager Joe Maddon, Lester and the Cubs made it to the National League Championship Series in 2015 after missing the playoffs in seven consecutive seasons, then won the team’s first World Series title in 108 years when they beat the Cleveland Indians in 2016.
The Cubs made the postseason in five of Lester’s six seasons on the North Side, with three NLCS appearances during that time.
The buyout, which will cost the Cubs $10 million, doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Lester’s time with the team, as the Cubs will still have the option to negotiate with Lester on a new contract should they choose to. The move was likely financially motivated, as many MLB teams are examining their budgets amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has reportedly cost the league billions in revenue.
The Cubs made two other roster moves Friday, claiming infielder Max Schrock off of waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals and assigning left-handed pitcher Rex Brothers to Triple-A Iowa.