Lester's $25 million team option was declined by the Cubs on Friday, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports. Lester spent the last six seasons with the Cubs, but he'll unsurprisingly hit free agency as his results have declined over the past two seasons. The 36-year-old will be paid a $10 million buyout by Chicago. Lester will search for a new deal after posting a 5.16 ERA and 1.33 WHIP over 61 innings in 2020.
Lester (3-3) allowed seven runs on six hits and three walks while striking out three over 3.2 innings in a loss to the White Sox on Saturday. The Cubs got out to a 5-2 lead after three innings, but Lester gave all of that back and then some in the fourth. Lester's ERA jumped from 4.40 to 5.16 as a result of this blowup, and it's possible manager David Ross will reconsider his rotation plans for the postseason. Ross had previously indicated Lester was the likely choice for Game 3 of the first round (if necessary).
Lester seems likely to pitch in Game 3 if one is necessary in the Cubs' upcoming first-round playoff series, though manager David Ross hasn't confirmed his rotation plans, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. Lester is scheduled to make his final regular-season start Saturday, which would put him on six days' rest by the time a Game 3 would be held Oct. 2. The veteran has had an up-and-down year, though he's pitched better lately, and he certainly has proven his worth in big games before. "Definitely Jon's experience goes a long way for me, and putting somebody out there that can handle the moment is very powerful," Ross said. Chicago will likely roll with Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish in the first two games of the best-of-three series, which is set to begin Wednesday.
Lester (3-2) tossed six scoreless innings to pick up the win Monday against the Pirates. He allowed four hits and a walk, while striking out one. After a rough patch of outings between mid-August and early September, Lester has turned things around in his last three starts. The veteran has logged 17 innings in those games and has allowed just two earned runs, lowering his ERA from 5.80 to 4.40 in the process. He's not missing a ton of bats, with just 10 strikeouts in those 17 innings, and Pittsburgh is certainly a soft matchup, but this is still encouraging for Lester and the Cubs as they move toward the playoffs. The lefty lines up for one more regular-season start Saturday against the White Sox.
Lester did not factor into the decision during Wednesday's win over the Indians, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out one batter across five innings. Lester got off to a messy first inning, during which he allowed a baserunner to score on a wild pitch. The 36-year-old settled down from there, quieting Cleveland's bats until a solo blast off the bat of Oscar Mercado in the fifth frame. Lester then left the game with the score knotted, 2-2. The right-hander, coming off a season-high eight strikeouts, has done well over his last two starts but has seen an inconsistent season to the tune of a 4.91 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. Lester is slated to take the mound for a favorable matchup Monday at Pittsburgh.
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