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"It's not often that you get to win the lottery," Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
That was his response to the Cubs, who just hired Maddon at the end of October, landing lefty Jon Lester, possibly the biggest free agent pitcher on the market. Lester, who had interest from the Boston Red Sox, the San Francisco Giants, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, chose to sign a six-year, $155 million deal with a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since 2008. He chose to go to a team that has had a losing record five seasons in a row.
The Cubs finished 73-89 this past season (61 and 66 wins the previous two), but there was a different mood around the club. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has done exactly what the Cubs hired him to do: create excitement by piecing together a team that has the potential to win for seasons to come. Reuniting with Lester, who came into Major League Baseball under Epstein in Boston, is a grand slam in the scheme of Chicago's offseason (and big picture) Plan A. First it was Maddon, then Jason Hammel decided to come back for a two-year deal just this past Monday, catcher Miguel Montero signed this week, and now Lester.
Lester, who pitched his way to a 16-11 record on a 2.46 ERA this past season, will be the Cubs ace above Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, Tsuyoshi Wada, and Travis Wood. That pitching core will be supported by some of the league's most promising young bats, with Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, and Starlin Castro all in the chamber (though future trades could ship one or more of these people out of town).
Extremely difficult decision for me and my family but we love the outcome and couldn't be more excited to join the Cubs organization! #NVRQT— Jon Lester (@JLester31) December 10, 2014
To Red Sox Nation, I understand the disappointment. Boston will always have a big place in my heart and we'll always consider y'all family!— Jon Lester (@JLester31) December 10, 2014
Will the Cubs compete for a playoff spot in 2015?