Reports: Lester joining Nationals on one-year contract
There was no way the Cubs were going to bring Jon Lester back for the 2021 season on the original $25 million option in his contract.
Still, they did seem interested in signing the veteran left-hander for less money after exercising a $10 million buyout in late October.
"If things could work out, we'd love to have him back," Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. "I think we have to figure some things out first. What he's done for us is amazing, and certainly we're not ready to close that door."
But the door swung shut Monday night when Lester reportedly signed a one-year contract with the Nationals.
Lester will join former teammate Kyle Schwarber, who signed a one-year, $10 million contract with Washington on Jan. 9 after being non-tendered by the Cubs.
Dave Martinez, the Nationals' manager, was Joe Maddon's bench coach with the Cubs from 2015-17.
While he struggled last season, posting a career-high 5.16 ERA while going 3-3 over 12 starts, Lester will always be remembered as a driving force in the Cubs' turnaround.
While helping them make the playoffs five times in the last six years and win the 2016 World Series, the 37-year-old lefty was 77-44 with a 3.64 ERA after joining the Cubs in 2015.
In postseason play, Lester ranks first in franchise history with 70 innings pitched and he's tied for first with 10 starts.
After last season, Lester thanked fans by spending over $47,000 buying beers at several Chicago sports bars.
With 193 career wins, Lester was hoping to get No. 200 with the Cubs. Now, he'll try to reach the milestone with the Nationals.