San Francisco Giants: Six years later, a Jon Lester deal may finally happen

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 26: Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs pitches in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 26, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 26: Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs pitches in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 26, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /
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The San Francisco Giants and Jon Lester could be a great match, at the right price.

According to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the San Francisco Giants are expressing interest in signing veteran left-handed starting pitcher Jon Lester to help round out their 2021 rotation, which can still use a bit of configuring.

Morosi reminds us that the Giants were actively pursuing Lester back in 2014 when San Francisco was coming off their third World Series title in six seasons, but the two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement. Lester has since spent the last six years with the Chicago Cubs, continuing to be a reliable major league starter.

The San Francisco Giants will have a tough time finding their way to the top of the National League West with the LA Dodgers and San Diego Padres in the way, but another season of expanded playoffs could give the Giants an opportunity to sneak in, as they almost did in 2020.

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For the right price, signing Jon Lester is a good move for the Giants, for a few different reasons, including his ability to round out a starting rotation that can put San Francisco in a position to make a playoff run.

The Giants need a reliable veteran to help anchor the backend of their starting rotation, one led by a resurgent Kevin Gausman and the always entertaining Johnny Cueto.

Over the last 12 seasons, Lester has made at least 31 starts in each season (minus 2020 and the disaster this entire year has been) and topped 200 innings in eight of those campaigns. They don’t make them more reliable than Jon Lester.

At 37 years of age, we can’t dismiss Lester’s down 2020 season, even if COVID-19 threw a wrench in everything.

Lester made 12 starts, going 3-3 with a 5.16 ERA and a career-low 15.8% strikeout rate. He also gave up a career-high 1.62 HR/9 IP.

But it’s just one blip in an otherwise steady and well-above career. As recently as 2019, Lester was worth 2.8 Wins Above Replacement, striking out nearly 22% of hitters and going 13-10 with a 4.26 FIP, the sort of numbers every team would love to have in a backend starter.

After showing glimpses of his potential in Baltimore, Kevin Gausman struggled to find his footing with Atlanta and Cincinnati before really taking off in San Francisco in 2020. Gausman posted a 3.09 FIP, struck out a career-high 32.2% of hitters he faced, and held opponents to a .218 average.

The Giants also worked a bit of magic with the now-departed Drew Smyly. Smyly made just seven appearances, but struck out nearly 38% of batters who stepped in the box against him and recorded a 2.01 FIP with a 0.9 fWAR in his short stint.

If the San Francisco Giants can work the same sort of magic with Lester, a rebound to close out his major league career is likely in the works.

Being surrounded by plenty of familiar faces won’t hurt either. Lester was teammates with current Giants pitching coach Andrew Bailey while in Boston, as well as Giants manager Gabe Kapler.

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Across his 15-year MLB career, Jon Lester is 193-111 with a 3.64 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. He would make a great addition to the San Francisco Giants roster and add a reliable veteran piece to a rotation that’s still a work-in-progress.