Cubs' Lester Enters Contract Year In A 'Good Place'

Jon Lester felt like he let the Cubs down with his struggles in 2019.

Bruce Levine
February 13, 2020 - 4:10 pm

MESA, Ariz. (670 The Score) -- Left-hander Jon Lester's role has changed since he joined the Cubs ahead of the 2015 season.

Lester immediately became the ace of the staff upon signing his six-year, $155-million deal. He then was a central figure in leading the Cubs to a World Series title in 2016, when he was runner-up in the National League Cy Young race.

Nowadays, the 36-year-old Lester isn't a top-of-the-rotation starter. His performance dipped last season, when he posted a 4.46 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 31 starts. Lester felt a sense of failure seeing that production, and it has him looking forward to 2020, the final guaranteed year of his contract with Chicago.

The Cubs hold a $25-million team option on Lester for 2021, and that amount can also vest if Lester pitches 200 innings in 2020. For his part, he hasn't thought much past this season.

"I play each year and worry about now," Lester said when asked about the final year of his contract. "Hopefully I have a good year and that is null and void. That way we won't have to talk about it. If not, I am sure we will sit down. When that's all said and done, you won't know about it. I just won't show up for spring training next year."

Lester remains intent on finishing his career in a Cubs uniform.

"Obviously I would (like to)," Lester said. "I originally signed here hoping that would take care of itself and finishing out the seventh year. After that, I don't know. Right now I feel good physically, and that will help determine what I might do. Right now, I just want to win a World Series this year."

Lester is keeping his goals simple for 2020 -- take the ball every fifth day and produce quality starts consistently.

"I want to make every start, and hopefully that leads to what I have done normally in my career," said Lester, who dealt with an ailing knee in 2019. "Obviously, last year was a disappointment for me and the team. I feel I let a lot of our guys down. I let our rotation down in those middle months. That is around not taking the ball and not giving the innings I normally give. Hopefully, I have health and that leads to what I am accustomed to doing.

"I feel great. I feel like I am in a good place physically and mechanically. We will see how it translates going forward."

With good friend David Ross now in his first season as Cubs manager, Lester feels a sense of responsibility to set the tone as a leader in the clubhouse. 

"The relationship will be the same that it always is except I will be called out more in meetings," Lester joked. "I expect that he will use me as an example both on the good side and bad side. I have made plenty of mistakes in this game. He was there for a lot of them. We had a good talk today as a part of our first deal. It's Rossy -- what you see is what you get, so there will be no surprises for me."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.