Red Sox must avoid Jon Lester
We all know that letting Jon Lester go was a mistake but a reunion at the end of his career isn’t the way to rectify it.
Lester has lived up to his contract for the majority of its duration, producing results for the Chicago Cubs that are eerily similar to what he achieved in a Red Sox uniform. His .636 winning percentage and 3.64 ERA are identical during his tenure with both teams.
Lester made two All-Star appearances in six years with the Cubs and earned Cy Young votes in both of those seasons, including a runner-up finish in 2016. He continued to be a dominant force in the postseason, helping Chicago capture their first World Series in over a century.
The Cubs have no regrets about signing Lester to a lucrative free-agent deal but they are highly unlikely to pick up his $25 million option for 2021, allowing him to test the market again. Many Red Sox fans want to see the lefty’s career come full circle by returning to Boston and Lester is on record admitting that he’s open to going back to where he started. We have to remember though that this version of Lester isn’t the same as the one we lost in 2014.
Lester will turn 37 years old before next season and he’s coming off the worst year of his career, posting a 5.16 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. He allowed 11 home runs in only 61 innings for a career-worst 1.6 HR/9.
He’s never been an overpowering flame-thrower but Lester’s fastball velocity has steadily declined from his mid-90’s peak to a troubling 89.8 mph. He showed elite strikeout upside early in his career with the Red Sox and has maintained a decent 8.3 K/9 for his career but that fell to a career-low 6.2 K/9 this season. That was the fourth-lowest strikeout rate among qualified starting pitchers and his 7.2 swinging strike percentage was dead last.
For some players who struggled this year, we can chalk it up to an unprecedented schedule caused by the pandemic disruption or the small sample of a shortened season. That’s not the case for Lester considering his age and that he’s been trending in this direction the last couple of seasons.
Lester will always be beloved in Boston but bringing him back would only be for nostalgic purposes to appease the fan base, not because it’s the best move to improve the rotation.