The Washington Nationals have agreed to a one-year deal with left-hander Jon Lester, securing a fourth starter to fill out the rotation.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported the deal. The agreement is reportedly pending a physical.
Lester is a five-time All-Star selection and three-time World Series champion, but he’s seen decline the past two seasons. He pitched nine years for the Boston Red Sox before joining the Oakland Athletics in a 2014 midseason trade. Then Lester joined the Chicago Cubs, where he spent the past six seasons.
The 37-year-old most recently stood out in 2018, making the All-Star roster with a league-high 18 wins and 3.32 ERA in 181.2 innings. Lester declined in 2019, though, with his ERA rising to 4.46. His WHIP swelled to 1.50 and he allowed 10.7 hits per nine innings — the highest total in his career.
The Nationals have largely disregarded statistics from the shortened 2020 campaign, as seen with the signings of left fielder Kyle Schwarber and first baseman Josh Bell. But Lester also produced a mixed bag of outings last season. He finished with a 5.16 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, but those numbers are inflated due to inconsistent performances.
In 12 games, Lester held opponents to one run or fewer six times. He gave up five runs or more on five occasions.
Lester has seen his velocity dip in recent seasons, too. According to FanGraphs, his four-seamer hovered around 89.8 mph last season. Also, 36 percent of the batted balls in play off Lester were considered hard hit balls.
Lester joins a rotation led by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. He will likely slot in as the fourth starter, with a combination of Erick Fedde, Austin Voth and Joe Ross competing for the fifth starter position.
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