Is Lester near the end of prolific run with Cubs?

Whether major-league baseball plays 100 games this season, 50 games, or no games at all, veteran players are going to get a full year of service time.

That agreement was reached in late March as ownership and the players' union were in the early stages of discussing ways to stage an abbreviated season in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was a major win for the players' side, but the service time detente is not great news for Jon Lester.

In the final season of a six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs, Lester has a $25 million mutual option for 2021 that is based on innings pitched.

Had the veteran left-hander logged 200 innings this season, he would have been back with the Cubs next year. There is no chance Lester hits that number now.

When Lester joined the Cubs before the 2015 season, the mutual option at the end of the deal also kicked in if totaled 400 innings in 2019-20.

Last year, Lester pitched 171⅔ innings, so he is 228⅓ innings short on that count. Again, no chance he hits that number in a shortened season.

The Cubs were looking to cut payroll wherever possible before the game was shut down by COVID-19 on March 12, and that urgency is only likely to increase when play resumes.

They can take some solace of not having to pay Lester $25 million in 2021.

At the age of 36 - and with 2,537⅔ innings and 14 major-league seasons under his belt - Lester is decidedly on the downside of a career that is one day going to merit Hall of Fame consideration.

That doesn't mean the five-time all-star is a liability.

"I'm happy with where he's at," said new Cubs manager David Ross. "I still think he's a special, top-of-the rotation pitcher."

Ross should know.

Teammates for two years with the Cubs and three seasons with the Red Sox, Ross and Lester are close friends.

There's already been some speculation that Ross is going to be hesitant pulling Lester from games, but they both know there's no place for favoritism.

"He's my boss," Lester said. "When he decides the game is over for me, the game is over."

Ross never officially announced the Cubs' rotation order before play was paused, but he strongly hinted Lester would be the No. 3 starter behind Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks.

A three-time World Series champion, Lester injured his left hamstring running the bases in the Cubs' home opener last April and never seemed to fully recover.

While he managed to make 31 starts, the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder went 13-10 and posted his highest ERA (4.46) since 2012.

"I'm such a legs-oriented pitcher so I think anytime you miss an extended amount of time with a leg injury, I think it just took me a while, even though I felt fine, to get my base back," Lester said. "Going into the offseason, I really tried to focus on my hips and my back, making sure I was strong in those areas."

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