Mets: Why Jon Lester could be a nice fit for the team in 2021
With some holes left to fill in the starting rotation, the New York Mets should consider signing the free agent left-hander Jon Lester.
The New York Mets have entered a new era, as billionaire Steve Cohen has officially taken over as the franchise’s new owner.
Less than one week into his regime, Cohen has already made some sizable moves, such as letting go of some key figures in the team’s front office, most notably GM Brodie Van Wagenen, and appointing Sandy Alderson the Team President.
With Cohen’s purchase of the Mets, the team is expected to be very active in free agency this off-season, and while the team has a solid base to build around, there are still a few holes to fill, particularly in their starting rotation.
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The Mets currently have three pitchers locked into their rotation in 2021, with 2x Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom positioned as the ace of the group, along with Noah Syndergaard returning from injury, and after an impressive rookie year, David Peterson is expected to return as well.
That leaves two spots open in the starting rotation left to fill, and while the Mets could go after some pricier and younger talent to fill the rotation, there is a certain veteran pitcher they should consider bringing in, and that veteran is the southpaw Jon Lester.
Lester has been a force in the MLB for well over a decade now. Over the past 15 years in the big leagues, he has amassed a 3.60 ERA over 424 games with the Red Sox, Athletics, and Cubs.
A 3-time World Series Champion, Lester was a key reason behind the Red Sox’s win in 2013, and the Cubs’ historic Championship in 2016. For his career, Lester has appeared in 26 games in the postseason, including 22 starts, and has compiled a 2.51 ERA.
While Lester has undoubtedly had an impressive career, he will be 37 years old heading into the 2021 season, and many will question how he will perform based on his last season with the Cubs.
In the final season of his 6-year deal, Lester started 12 games for Chicago in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season, and despite his track record, he, unfortunately, had on off-year, recording a 5.16 ERA over 61.0 innings.
While there is no guarantee that Lester will return to his previous form at his older age, I still believe it would behoove the Mets to bring him in to help fill out the rotation. And if you ask Lester’s former manager David Ross, he believes Lester is primed for a bounce-back year.
According to Ross, he believes Lester’s struggles last season were due to the circumstances surrounding the season, and specifically, his lack of proper Spring Training prior to the season to adjust to a lower fastball velocity.
"I think for a lot of people, especially veteran players, it was really tough to stay sharp during the quarantine time. You saw some of these guys who had great years and you saw some guys who just couldn’t get it going. I think Jon was in the middle of that. He had some highs and lows. He had some really good spurts. I know it’s in there but the velocity really never ticked back up to where I think he can get. Having an offseason and really reworking his program and downtime, I think you’re going to see a really good Jon Lester next year.”"
By Ross’ account, Lester’s issues could be resolved with proper preparation of a typical offseason and Spring Training. If he adjusts to pitching with the lower velocity and shows flashes of the pitcher he was just 2 years ago, the Mets could end up with one of the biggest steals of free agency.
While the Mets do have the ability to spend more in free agency, they do still need to spend what they can wisely, and taking a gamble on a historically great player on a short-term and affordable deal is always something to consider.
Bringing in a guy like Lester on a 1-2 year deal gives them the ability to sign another pitcher, such as Marcus Stroman to a longer deal, with the flexibility to hopefully extend Noah Syndergaard’s contract as well.
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The bottom line is, the Mets have two holes in the rotation left to fill, and Jon Lester could be a gamble with a potentially huge upside that they should consider bringing in to fill it.