SAN DIEGO -- The Chicago Cubs agreed with free-agent pitcher Jon Lester on a six-year, $155 million deal, according to sources close to the situation, ending the offseason saga for one of the best pitchers in the game.
How it happened: The Cubs were aggressive in both their approach and their expanding budget in snagging the 116-game winner. Lester visited Chicago early in the process, and as other teams joined in the bidding, the Cubs stayed right at the top of the heap. The Cubs strengthened their roster before signing Lester by bringing back righty Jason Hammel and trading for catcher Miguel Montero.
What it means: Lester becomes the Cubs' ace for the immediate future, with Jake Arrieta slotted behind him. His six seasons of 200-plus innings pitched over the span of the past seven years tells the story of his success and durability. His playoff numbers are pretty good as well -- he owns a 2.57 ERA over five postseason appearances. More than anything, he represents a new era for the Cubs. Yes, big-ticket free-agent signings haven't always worked out, but the message the Cubs are sending to the rest of the baseball world is they mean business now. Lester joins the youngest team in the league and is expected to provide veteran leadership it is sorely lacking. He should excel pitching in the National League for the first time in his career. Lester joins Arrieta, Hammel, Kyle Hendricks and Travis Wood in the Cubs' rotation.
What's next: The Cubs should be done with their starting staff after adding two pitchers in two days. They'll turn their attention to catching and the outfield. Could former Boston Red Sox backstop David Ross be far behind Lester in signing with the Cubs? The front office is meeting with him despite having traded for Montero. It means Welington Castillo would be on the move. Ross caught most of Lester's starts and got the best out of him. He and Montero would provide the receiving skills and leadership that Russell Martin has but without the price tag. Jonny Gomes remains a possibility as well, and, unless the Cubs entertain a major trade proposal for a prospect or perhaps Luis Valbuena, they could be done with their heavy lifting this offseason. Then again, with Lester in tow, maybe the Cubs will look for a starting outfielder from the Los Angeles Dodgers or Atlanta Braves. Either way, the Cubs are considerably better today than they were at the end of last season. They hit a home run with Lester.