The Cubs and Jon Lester made it official on Monday. With a downtown restaurant as the backdrop, the Cubs introduced the left-hander to the media as the signing became official.
Donned in his #34 Cubs jersey and surrounded by family, Lester answered questions and told the media he chose the Cubs because he “believed in their plan” and he was “here to win.”
“This is a very significant day for the Cubs for a lot of reasons,” said Cubs President Theo Epstein. “We got better on the field, Jon is the perfect pitcher to lead out rotation. We get better in the club house with John’s character and work ethic. We get better in the community as John and Farah’s (his wife) work with Never Quit Foundation.”
This signing marks a transition for the Cubs,” added Epstein. “A start of a period here we are clearly very serious about winning a world series. Great day for our fans.”
Lester made it clear he plans on winning a World Series with the Cubs.
“I like to win. I’m here to win a world series,” Lester said. “I’m excited to work with Joe (Maddon) and a lot of these young guys.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think they were going to contend in 2015. So that’s how I think and I’m never gonna say ‘we’ll be all right this year and we’ll get them next year.‘ I’m going in with the intention of wining in 2015 and that means the division, that means the World Series, that means everything. Like I said, I don’t like to lose you can call it arrogant or cocky or whatever you want but I like to win and that’s what I’m here to do.”
“They really sold me on the facts of their plan, and what they thought this team can do in the future. That was huge for me.”
Lester cashed in on his consistency and health with over 30 starts the past seven seasons and is coming off a career-high 219.2 innings between Boston and Oakland. Despite the spike in innings, Lester had the best command of his career, 2.0 BB/9 and averaged 9.0 K/9, above his career average of 8.2.
Playoff experience is another plus Lester brings to the young Cubs with 84 innings in five post-seasons. In three World Series starts, Lester is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in 21 innings with 18 K and 4 BB. He got the start in Oakland’s ’14 wild card game against Kansas City but allowed six earned runs in seven plus innings.
He did admit that getting traded from Boston mid-season made it easier to select another team because it broke a barrier that he could play for another organization. He added it was a hard decision to leave Boston.
Lester, 30, is a three-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion during his nine seasons with the Boston Red Sox (2006-14) and Oakland Athletics (2014). He has a pair of top five Cy Young Award finishes (2010 and 2014, both fourth), four top 10 finishes for the ERA title and six top 10 finishes in wins.
Overall, Lester is 116-67 with a 3.58 ERA (635 ER/1,596.0 IP) in 253 major league appearances, all but one as a starting pitcher. Among big league left-handed pitchers active at the end of the 2014 campaign, Lester ranks best with an average of only 0.82 home runs per nine innings, second with 8.22 strikeouts per nine innings, third in ERA, fourth in wins and WHIP (1.28) and fifth with 1,457 strikeouts and 156 quality starts. He threw the 18th no-hitter in Red Sox history on May 19, 2008, a 7-0 victory against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.
A World Champion with the Red Sox in 2007 and 2013, Lester is 6-4 with a 2.57 ERA in 14 post-season appearances, 12 as a starter. He has won all three of his World Series starts, and was the winning pitcher in the clinching Game 4 in 2007 in Colorado.
Lester turned in one of the best seasons of his career in 2014 when he went 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA (60 ER/219.2 IP) in 32 starts with the Red Sox and Athletics. He earned All-Star honors for the third time and recorded his lowest single-season ERA, which ranked fourth in the American League. He struck out 220 batters and walked only 48, good for a 4.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio that ranked seventh in the league. Lester was 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA in 21 starts for the Red Sox before being traded to Oakland on July 31, where he went 6-4 with an even better 2.35 ERA in 11 starts.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Lester was originally selected by the Red Sox in the second round of the 2002 Draft (57th overall) out of high school and was in the big leagues just four years later at the age of 22. He made his debut on June 10, 2006 and made 15 starts before being diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma in late-August. Lester was declared cancer free in December and returned to the big leagues on July 23, 2007, going a perfect 4-0 with a 4.57 ERA in 12 outings (11 starts) down the stretch to help the Red Sox to the playoffs and World Championship.
Lester began his run of seven-straight seasons with more than 30 starts in 2008 and has posted 15 or more victories in six of those seasons, including a career-high 19 wins in 2010, his first of two-straight All-Star seasons. He struck out 225 batters in consecutive seasons in 2009 and 2010, his single-season career bests. In 2013, Lester went 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA (6 ER/34.2 IP) in five post-season starts to lead the Red Sox to the 2013 World Series championship.
In 2012, Lester launched NVRQT (Never Quit), a fundraising arm of the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation to raise awareness and funds for children's cancer research. He is an active participant in the community and was Boston's 2012 Roberto Clemente Award nominee. Lester is a native of Tacoma, Wash., and a graduate of Bellarmine Preparatory School. Jon and his wife, Farrah, have two sons, Hudson and Walker.