The Chicago Cubs have always been a big market team. They also however have been reluctant to spend their money on new signings. For the first time in a long time, the Cubs dropped some money on signing Jon Lester to a 6-year, $155M contract and the cheers from Wrigleyville could be heard across the world. While Jon Lester is one of the best pitchers in baseball today, does the signing make much sense financially for the Cubs? Just ask the Yankees how their big money, long term contracts are panning out.
The most immediate comparison to Jon Lester and his contract would be CC Sabathia’s contract with the Yankees. Sabathia signed on to a 6-year, $142M in 2012. He signed on when he was 31, and now two years later he’s on and off of the Disabled List and his ERA keeps climbing higher. The Yankees are experiencing serious buyer’s remorse with Sabathia signed on for another 4 years and owed $90.6M. There’s also the case of Alex Rodriguez which is obviously a different story, but the moral of the story is that long term contracts almost never work out.
Lester comes to the Cubs at the age of 30 and certainly at his peak. But being at the ripe age of 30, he’s only getting older and his production is going to go down. Justin Verlander has started to decline in his early 30s as well as many other good pitchers. Lester most likely has another 3 good years in him. Theo Epstein and the Cubs have a done a great job acquiring young talent, but they are still nowhere ready to compete for a World Series. Is Jon Lester an elite pitcher? Yes. Can Jon Lester make Javier Baez or Starlin Castro play better? No. The other players in the organization need to mature some more and improve. With the $155M they spent on Lester, the Cubs could possibly have signed some more young talent to build around. The Cubs aren’t ready for playoff contention and Lester most likely will go to waste.
Lester potentially could be financially deadly to the Cubs, but the signing proves one thing: the Cubs are serious and are a team that people should be paying attention to in the years to come.