The Nationals announced Wednesday that they’ve signed Jon Lester to a one-year deal, reportedly agreeing to terms on a $5 million contract with the veteran left-hander for the 2021 season.
Lester joins the Nationals after spending the last six seasons with the Chicago Cubs. A reunion appeared possible between the two sides when the offseason began, but Lester explained in a Zoom press conference Wednesday that the Nationals were a “good fit” even though the Cubs made him an offer.
“We did reach out and so did [the Cubs] and we talked and had a lot of good conversations,” Lester said. “Just kinda the timeline on either side didn’t really work out…I had to make a decision and we did. I think both sides, we went through the process and this is where we ended up.”
Chicago began its offseason by announcing that team president Theo Epstein and the organization were mutually parting ways. General Manager Jed Hoyer took over and has since non-tendered outfielders Kyle Schwarber, now with Washington, and Albert Almora Jr. and traded starter Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres. A rebuild appears to be on the horizon.
At 37 years old, Lester didn’t have a whole lot of career left to wait out another Cubs rebuild. He signed with the team ahead of the 2015 season, with Chicago coming off five consecutive fifth-place finishes in the NL Central. While the Cubs had a winning record in each of his six years with the club, their ability to compete moving forward is no guarantee.
That being said, Lester isn’t ready to count them out.
“I think we all kind of see what’s going on,” Lester said. “I think that’s the big thing is you see where they’re headed but that doesn’t mean they’re gonna be bad. The Chicago Cubs are still gonna be a good team, a good organization…you reach a point where sometimes you need to move on and I think that’s where we were at on both sides.”
As for his new ballclub, Lester is excited to pitch alongside the Nationals’ trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin as well as get in the clubhouse with Washington’s young players.
“There’s a lot of youth here,” Lester said. “Obviously, you got one of the best players in baseball in your outfield [in Juan Soto]. For me personally, it’s the staff. I’m excited to be with these guys and see and kind of pick their brains and see what makes them successful and what drives them…so I’m excited about that. I know Davey obviously brings so much fun to the table and so I’m excited about that. I’m excited about having fun and just playing baseball and hopefully we win a lot of ballgames.”