Jon Lester addressed the media Wednesday after being officially announced as a member of the Washington Nationals, and there were naturally a few questions about his time with the Cubs. The lefty confirmed that he’d had conversations with Jed Hoyer and Tom Ricketts and that a formal offer from them didn’t come until his talks with the Nats were down to the “nitty-gritty.”
We've agreed to terms on a 1-year contract with 3-time World Series Champion and 5-time All-Star LHP Jon Lester.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) January 27, 2021
Only a few people know what that offer ended up being, but suffice to say it was not enough.
NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan has been adamant that Lester wanted to remain in Chicago and would have taken less than what he ended up getting from Washington. ESPN’s Jesse Rogers took that a step further when he tweeted Wednesday evening that Lester “would have played for just about anything in ‘21 and deferred the rest but [the] team said no.”
That provides additional credence to concerns that the Cubs may be predicting their financial troubles will stretch well beyond this season, which tracks with reports that they’re carrying $1 billion in debt from their various investments. The problem isn’t asset value, it’s liquidity, and we can probably reasonably assume they have chosen not to borrow further in order to increase the baseball budget.
If that’s the case, ownership may need at least one more year of payroll austerity and/or a full season of fans in the stands in order to adequately service their existing debt. So the lack of spending is definitely a business decision, it’s just not one aimed at rebuilding for the sake of creating a new competitive window. In other words, the front office is conducting business out of necessity rather than by choice.
“We all kind of see what’s going on,” Lester told Gordon Wittenmyer and other media members. “You kind of see where they’re headed. That doesn’t mean they’re going to be bad.”
Lester went on to say that all of his conversations with the Cubs were positive and that he had no hard feelings after an incredible run that began in 2015. Though the Cubs’ refusal to make anything approaching a competitive offer is the real reason he’s in Washington, Lester’s comments indicate that he felt a little pull to be something part of a team with a more positive outlook.
He’s familiar with manager Davey Martinez and pitching coach Jim Hickey from their time in Chicago, which makes the transition easier. Lester also noted the comfort of just being one of the guys at the back end of the rotation, a contributor rather than someone who was expected to carry the staff. While he may not have been the man over his last two seasons in Chicago, he was still viewed as a marquee player.
Sometimes it’s more fun to be a cheerleader than a mascot, especially when the pay is better.
And with that, I think it’s high time we close the book on Lester for now. We’ll surely open it up again when he comes back to town in his new uniform, but until then we’ll just let this tribute video do the talking.
Tenacity on the field. Generosity off the field.
A leader, a teammate, a role model.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 27, 2021