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Jon Lester: Is This It?

Jon Lester has had a phenomenal career, but is this it? Lester’s career has now spanned 15 seasons (including 2020). He’s accumulated three World Series rings and was nominated to the All-Star team five times. Sadly, even the best get old.

Slipping Back

Lester"s already accepted the fact that he won"t lead the Cubs" starting rotation this year. Lester"s also indicated that he"s fully prepared to drop back to third — or possibly even fourth — in the Cubs" rotation.

Yu Darvish made a turnaround last year that should net him the #1 spot in the rotation. Kyle Hendricks doesn"t have velocity, but pitches with finesse. On a good day, Lester"s fastball touches the mid-90s, but his control has slipped noticeably.

Two of the previous three seasons have seen Lester"s ERA at or above 4.33. His innings have tapered off over the last handful of years, and the frustration on his face is apparent.

Insurmountable Task?

The Cubs have a $25M option on Lester for 2021; the buyout is $10M. In order to be fully vested for 2021, Lester is required to pitch 200 innings this season.

Lester is a workhorse. He always has been and now is no different. But 200 innings? That"s no small task and Lester hasn"t accomplished that feat since 2015.

If Lester can make 32 starts this year- something that would be impossible with the shortened season, he"d have to average 6.25 innings per start. More realistically, this season may net him 29 starts if things aren"t further delayed. Under this scenario, Lester would have to hurl an average of almost seven innings per start. This is impossible for any pitcher, much less for one who just turned 36.

He"s Been Written Off Before

Lester says he"s not worried and that he"ll take things as they come. “I"ve been written off before," Lester said. “I think I"ve done alright for myself. Lester continued, “I don"t care about that. I care about winning. At the end of the day, you can say I"m done. That"s fine. I want to win. I don"t care. Winning"s winning and that"s what I show up for."

“The [2019] season sucked personally for me, but it also sucked for the team and that"s what matters most."

Age is working against him, though he appears to have slimmed down. Lester"s got the right attitude, but in the back of his mind, you know he"s wondering if this is it.

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