Having worked around the fringes of the roster early this offseason, signing some bullpen arms and adding prospects to the 40-man roster, and attacking what they believed was a need in the middle of the order, by adding Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber to the mix in D.C., Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo has now apparently addressed the need for depth in the Nats’ starting rotation by signing veteran lefty Jon Lester to what is reportedly a 1-year deal.
Multiple reports tonight had the club and the 37-year-old, 15-year veteran deep in talks on a free agent deal, and ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan was the first (we saw) with the news on an agreement being reached which will reunite the southpaw with both Davey Martinez and Jim Hickey, who previously served as the bench coach and pitching coach, respectively, for Chicago’s Cubs, for whom Lester pitched for the past six seasons (2015-20).
Left-handed starter Jon Lester and the Washington Nationals are in agreement on a one-year deal with a mutual option, pending physical, sources familiar with the contract told ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 19, 2021
After a phenomenal six years in Chicago, Lester off to D.C. to join Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin.
Jon Lester has deal with Nats. 1 year. Strong connection with Davey Martinez from Chicago. @Ken_Rosenthal and @JeffPassan on it— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 19, 2021
Lester made 12 starts for the Cubs in 2020’s 60-game campaign, with a 5.16 ERA, a 5.14 FIP, 17 walks (2.51 BB/9), and 42 Ks (6.20 K/9) in 61 IP, holding opposing hitters to a combined .262/.318/.459 line, and in his last full season in 2019, the left-hander was (13-10) in 31 starts with a 4.46 ERA, a 4.26 FIP, 52 walks (2.73 BB/9), 165 Ks (8.65 K/9) and a .294/.345/.470 line against in 171 2⁄3 IP.
MASN’s Mark Zuckerman noted on Twitter that the overall stats from 2020’s truncated campaign, as with many pitchers in the odd season, are somewhat misleading:
Lester's 2020 numbers (5.16 ERA, 11 HR in 61 IP) were gaudy, but he allowed 0 or 1 run in 6 of his 12 starts. When he was good, he was really good. When he was bad, he was really bad.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) January 19, 2021
In discussing the rotation options in the organization, after adding Bell and before signing Schwarber, Rizzo said that the moves they made to address their top priorities would go a long way in determining how the club approached their starting pitching needs with some options like Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, and Austin Voth back to compete for the back end with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin up top in the rotation.
Those needs, he said, would be addressed after the offensive needs.
“We’ve got a couple of different ways to go, it’s all about asset allocation and I think that the moves that we do early will dictate that rotation move.”
He did, however, say that he was happy with the options even if they didn’t bring in more pitching.
“I have confidence in the depth that we’ve built here as far as back end starters, you know, with kind of an addition of Joe Ross this year [after he opted out of pitching in 2020] and Voth and Fedde, and then those young kids that we had seen in Fredericksburg all season and then in Instructional League — was extremely exciting to see those guys pitch. We’ve seen several guys that are going to help us this year in the big leagues that maybe aren’t household names by the prospects experts, but we saw a handful of guys that are close to impacting the big league roster soon.”
While they wait for some of their young arms to develop, Lester will apparently join the mix and leave Ross, Voth, and Fedde to fight for the fifth spot in the 2021 rotation, assuming all things go as planned in Spring Training.
What are your thoughts on the pending addition of Lester to the Nationals’ rotation? A lot of former Cubs in D.C.? What’s next on the list for Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office?