The Cubs are wasting no time in trying to determine Jon Lester’s future with the team.
At his end-of-season press conference Monday, team president Theo Epstein said he plans to talk to Lester “over the next couple days” and they already exchanged text messages over the weekend.
“It remains to be seen whether Jon has pitched his last game as a Cub, or not,” Epstein said. “There’s certainly the possibility that he continues to call Wrigley Field home.”
It’s a foregone conclusion that the Cubs will buy out Lester’s $25 million option for $10 million. That leaves a broad range of possibilities for a potential 2021 reunion with the team. With Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay — who made strides in 2020 and Epstein said is "primed to slide into the rotation," in 2021, the Cubs have at least one rotation opening.
Epstein’s comments mark the second time the front office said they plan to talk to Lester about returning, following general manager Jed Hoyer late last month. And Lester, 36, has already expressed a desire to return on multiple occasions.
“I’ve definitely appreciated everything that this organization has done for me, and I hope it’s not it,” Lester said this past Thursday. “I hope we can figure something out for next year, and these conversations are kind of null and void.”
Whether or not this is it for Lester, his legacy as the best free agent signing in Cubs history is secured. He joined a last place club and helped transform it to a perennial contender. The Cubs have made the postseason in five of his six seasons with the team, making three NLCS appearances and winning a World Series.
Said Epstein: “It’s rare when someone joins an organization with some clear goals in mind — to win a World Series, to change the culture, to show up in October just about every year and pitch really well in big games, to be a great teammate, to be someone the organization can be proud of, to make an impact on his teammates and in his community, and accomplish all those goals in such an admirable manner.
“We owe him a great debt of gratitude. We were investing in Jon Lester the person every bit as much as we were investing in Jon Lester the pitcher. He came through in both areas for us in typical Jon Lester fashion. Huge tip of the cap to him.
“He’s made a huge impact on Chicago Cubs baseball and it remains to be seen what the future holds. He’s someone I really admire and always will.”