Imrem: Cubs' Lester not pitching like a $155-million man

  • Mike Imrem says Jon Lester's stats Saturday night were 6.2 innings, 8 hits and 4 runs … sort of the type expected of a No. 3 starter in a playoff rotation.

    Mike Imrem says Jon Lester's stats Saturday night were 6.2 innings, 8 hits and 4 runs … sort of the type expected of a No. 3 starter in a playoff rotation. Associated press

 
 
Updated 10/18/2015 8:36 AM

The Cubs might want to see if they can stop payment on the next big paycheck to Jon Lester.

If only, huh?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Lester signed a $155-million contract with the Cubs as a free agent last off-season.

This is a veteran pitcher who was brought in to bring a championship pedigree to the Cubs' pitching staff.

Lester especially was supposed to make his presence felt in the postseason, where he had developed a reputation as a big-game pitcher for the Red Sox.

Well, to be fair, Lester wasn't awfully awful against the Mets in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

But Lester's stats Saturday night were 6.2 innings, 8 hits and 4 runs … sort of the type expected of a No. 3 starter in a playoff rotation.

Lester's number were just good enough -- or bad enough let's say -- to get the Cubs beat 4-2.

He's supposed to win big games like this but was charged with the loss. Mets' starter Matt Harvey was the winner on a yield of 2 runs and 4 hits over 7.2 innings.

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"I thought (Harvey) was on top of his game," Cubs' manager Joe Maddon said. "Jon pitched well, too."

Just not well enough or how well he is expected to.

Lester did contribute to the Cubs' run through the second half of the season and into the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

But it wouldn't be unfair to point out that Lester didn't pitch like a $155-million man except for a flash here and a flash there.

The numbers were respectable for anyone who isn't one of the highest-paid players in the highly paid major leagues.

Lester had an 11-12 record that actually should have been better considering his 3.34 earned run average.

Again, though, this isn't just any other pitcher or player. It's Jon Lester, who will average around $26 million annually over six years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Maybe we should forget how much Lester is being paid and judge him merely like any other pitcher.

Maybe not, though, because the numbers are too mind-boggling to ignore: MLB.com reported at signing time that there was a $30 million signing bonus and either a $10-million buyout after the 2020 season or a $25-million vesting option for 2021.

(By the way, a buyout in the newspaper business is what Lester receives for pulling up his socks on a day he's pitching.)

If Jon Lester winds up with the vesting option for 2021, his total package would be up to $170 million.

That's a lot of money for somebody who wins 11 games and loses 12 during the first regular season of the deal.

But that doesn't matter. What matters is that Lester is the man who was going to be the guy to lead the way for the Cubs during the postseason.

The Cubs regard him so highly that Maddon didn't mind at all pitching him against the Mets in the NLDS opener.

All Lester had to do to justify his contract, justify being picked to throw Game 1, justify being tabbed a big-game pitcher …

All Lester had to do was win this game … but he lost it.

"I put our team behind the 8-ball tonight," Lester said. "Hopefully Jake (Arrieta) picks me up tomorrow."

As for the Cubs, they didn't suffer anything fatal in Game 1. It's a best-of-seven series and they have been resilient all season.

Lester didn't suffer anything fatal either. Unless the series ends sooner than later, he will start another game.

Cubs' fans are probably thinking it would be a good time to start earning his huge contract by winning a huge postseason game.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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