(670 The Score) While the Cubs kept the door open to bringing back veteran left-hander Jon Lester this offseason, that possibility has been closed.
Lester, 37, has agreed to join the Nationals on a one-year deal, according to multiple reports Monday evening. Jon Greenberg and Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic first reported the sides were nearing a deal. The contract includes a mutual option for a second season, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported.
Lester wasn't the only starting pitcher whom the Cubs watched leave in free agency Monday evening. Right-hander Tyler Chatwood also agreed to a contract with the Blue Jays, according to reports. Lester made 12 starts in 2020, while Chatwood made five before being sidelined by a forearm strain.
There are plenty of familiar faces for Lester in Washington, which is managed by former Cubs bench coach Davey Martinez. The Nationals also recently signed former Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber to a one-year deal, and their pitching coach is Jim Hickey, who held that same role for Chicago in 2018.
Lester went 77-44 with a 3.64 ERA in 171 starts over six seasons with the Cubs. He was co-MVP of the 2016 National League Championship Series, going 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA as Chicago earned its first pennant since 1945.
Lester struggled in 2020, going 3-3 with a 5.16 ERA in 12 starts in the shortened 60-game regular season. His influence on the organization extended far beyond just his on-field production in his Chicago tenure.
"Whether he leaves or stays, this is an appropriate time just to acknowledge the profound impact he had on our organization," former Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said back in October. "It's rare when somebody joins an organization with some clear goals in mind -- to win a World Series, to change a culture, to show up in October just about every year and pitch really well in big games, to be a great teammate, to be somebody our organization can be proud of, to make an impact on his teammates and community. He accomplished all those goals in such an honorable manner."
Chatwood signed a three-year deal with the Cubs before the 2018 season. He posted a 4.70 ERA in 67 appearances, including 30 starts, in his Chicago tenure. While there was some hope that the Cubs might retain Lester, the expectation was that Chatwood would leave in free agency like he did.