Late last night, Yahoo's Jeff Passan reported that the Chicago Cubs signed Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal. According to Passan, the Cubs managed to snag Lester by outbidding the Red Sox, who most everyone thought was the favorite to land Lester, by $20 million. The Cubs, it appears, are ready to try and Do It.
Adding Lester to a Joe Maddon-coached team that is stocked with young talent gives the Cubs the look of a team that is to be taken seriously. As we've said before, there's a big difference between looking like a good team and actually being one (especially when the Cubs are involved), but slotting Lester into the front of the rotation certainly gives the Cubs the complexion of a serious playoff contender.
How much of an ace you consider the 31-year-old Lester to actually be at this point in his career depends on how much you buy into his strong 2014 season. After three straight seasons of settling into a niche as a four-win pitcher, Lester posted a six-win season in 2014 and saw his strikeouts per nine innings spike from just over seven to a solid nine. That may look like statistical noise surrounding a guy who's bound to regress, but Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs recently dove into Lester's 2014, and found that a change in his approach to righties had a lot to do with his success, and could signal more strong seasons in the future.
In any case, the Cubs are officially out here, and they're finally spending a bit of the massive amounts of money their fans pump into the franchise every year. Get ready to start seeing a lot more of them on national TV.