Being on the field and chewing through innings may be Jon Lester’s biggest contribution to the Nationals this year.
As teams continue to trudge along this offseason, the Washington Nationals were able to cross another item off their to do list. By signing Jon Lester to a one year contract, a veteran pitcher with a track record of taking the ball every fifth day, is added to the rotation.
Jon Lester had a 5.16 ERA last season, but he made every start. Jon Lester gave up a league high 205 hits in 2019, but he made every start. Jon Lester won 18 games and was an All-Star in 2018. You know what? He made all his starts too.
I’ll agree with the people who are skeptical of this move and say Lester is old (37), worn down (nearly 2600 innings on that left arm), and less effective than he used to be (4.15 ERA over past four years, 2.99 ERA the four years prior).
Jon Lester has 154 postseason innings experience under his belt, has three World Series rings, and makes all his starts. The pitching knowledge he possesses may be immeasurable to a group of younger pitchers trying to crack the rotation for the Nationals. Not a bad fourth starter to follow the likes of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin, either.
Nine different pitchers started a game for the Nats a year ago, and when Ben Braymer, Paolo Espino, and Wil Crowe made their starts, those games were considered “bullpen games”. The club knew going in they would most likely be committing five-plus innings to relievers.
A taxed bullpen was part of the reason the 2019 version of the pitching staff imploded, and led directly to overuse on the arms Sean Doolittle and others, causing injury and prolonged visits to the injured list.
Lester’s performance on the field is important, though the mere fact he is on the field regularly, may be the biggest help he provides. Taking out his rookie season and the pandemic shortened season, Lester has failed to make thirty or more starts just once in his long career.
At an investment of $5M, this was a good move for the Washington Nationals. With Joe Ross, Austin Voth, and Erick Fedde set to battle it out for the fifth spot in the rotation, I wouldn’t be surprised if another veteran is signed to a non-guaranteed contract, to provide even more depth.