Jon Lester demanded a no-trade clause before he signed that $155 million megadeal because he wanted to control his own destiny.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein broke his own policy and caved pretty quickly, envisioning Lester in a Cubs uniform on October nights, ultimately winning a World Series here.
With about 48 hours left until Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline, the Cubs really aren’t all-in yet, looking at players who can help next season and beyond, or trying to patch holes in the roster, not desperate for the two-month mercenary who might put this team over the top.
If the Detroit Tigers really are becoming sellers, it’s so much easier to picture the Cubs rolling out the red carpet for David Price during his free-agency tour, the way the organization gave such a detailed presentation to Lester’s family last November.
So this won’t necessarily change the thinking for Epstein’s front office. But in a season filled with wild mood swings for Cubs fans, Lester settled things down on Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field, dominating the Colorado Rockies in a 3-2 victory.
“We all understand the position that we’re in,” Lester said. “We can’t just (mortgage everything). Now if we were in first place and this plan was kind of sped up, I think guys would expect something to get done. Whether it’s a big move or a small move, anytime you get somebody that just kind of gives you that little boost. That gives you that belief.
“And I’m not saying they don’t believe in us if they don’t make a move. It’s just you get that little boost in the clubhouse, like: ‘Hey, these guys think we can make a push here.’”
The Cubs are now 53-47 and trailing the San Francisco Giants by 2.5 games for the second wild-card spot, likely to land someone like Ian Kennedy or Dan Haren to stabilize the back end of the rotation.
Lester knows there are no guarantees. He got traded last year from the Boston Red Sox to the Oakland A’s on July 31 — his son’s birthday — and wound up with a no-decision after giving up six runs in a one-and-done wild-card loss to the Kansas City Royals.
Lester (6-8, 3.26 ERA) sliced through Colorado’s lineup, striking out seven of the first nine hitters he faced and finishing with 14 strikeouts. The lefty unloaded his arsenal for eight innings — cutter, curveball, sinker, changeup — and gave up only two runs.
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“Everything was on,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We definitely needed that. He supplied it. That’s what guys like Jon Lester do for a team. That’s a perfect example.”
The Cubs got home runs from Dexter Fowler (.518 on-base percentage since the All-Star break) and Anthony Rizzo (his first since July 7). Hector Rondon notched his 13th save after their frontline starter pitched like an ace.
All this reinforced the idea that improvement will have to come from within if there’s going to be meaningful games played at Wrigley Field in late September.
But Lester would still like to see the front office deliver at the trade deadline.
“Would it be nice? Yeah,” Lester said. “If it doesn’t happen, I think we all understand. We have the pieces. We just need to consistently play well on all fronts of the game.”