Jon Lester and the Cubs had reached a point where both sides realized they were headed separate ways.
“I’m a grown man,” Lester said he told president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer.
On a Zoom conference with Washington D.C. and Chicago media Wednesday, Lester continued: “He understood that, and we could walk away with both of our heads held high and move on.”
With that, the possibility of Lester spending the rest of his career in Chicago, or at least reaching 200 career wins as a Cub, melted away.
On Wednesday, the Nationals introduced Lester as the newest member of their rotation, after the left-hander signed a one-year, $5 million contact (including a $3 million deferred signing bonus).
Lester confirmed that the Cubs had made him an offer, “right at the nitty gritty,” as he put it. Though Lester declined to go into specifics, the Cubs offer clearly wasn’t enough to rival the Nationals’ bid.
“There's no hard feelings,” Lester said Wednesday. “I hope no hard feelings from them on their end of what's going on. So, nothing but positives, and (I’m) very grateful.”
In October, the Cubs declined the $25 million contract option on Lester, sending him into free agency. But the club publicly expressed interest in bringing Lester back on a cheaper deal. The interest was mutual.
“Just the timeline, I think on either side, didn't really work out,” Lester said. “This felt like a good fit for us, and I had to make a decision.”
Lester said he had good conversations with Hoyer, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, manager David Ross and some of his Cubs teammates before signing with the Nationals. He told Ricketts that he was grateful for the Cubs “taking the chance” on him six years ago.
Lester was being too modest – the Cubs were in a bidding war for Lester before they signed him to help open their championship window – but his affinity for the club was clear.
On Wednesday, Lester reiterated something he’d said after his last home start at Wrigley Field: “I really didn't think six years would go by that fast.”