Oakland Athletics: Jon Lester could be a fit in 2021
By David Hill
The Oakland Athletics could have an opening in the rotation next year. Jon Lester would be a solid option to fill that gap.
The Oakland Athletics should have the majority of their starting rotation together for years. A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo will both be rookies, with plenty of team control remaining. Sean Manaea will be entering his first year of arbitration, while Frankie Montas will be a year away. That fearsome foursome will, in theory, remain intact for some time.
However, there will be an opening. Mike Fiers is under contract through the end of this season, and should he replicate his 2019 performance, will be in heavy demand. Even a respectable year should lead to plenty of suitors for his services, as Fiers has proven to be a dependable starter, a valued veteran presence.
That veteran presence, even more than his production, would be missed in Oakland. Fiers has been through the battles, part of a World Series winning team, and understands what it takes to win in October (outside of a trashcan). Having a pitcher like Fiers in the rotation can make a major difference when learning how to win.
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Fortunately, there is another veteran presence that would be available in free agency that can fit that mold. A pitcher who has been a part of breaking one of the more infamous championship droughts in sports history. And, he was even a member of the A’s before.
Enter Jon Lester. At 36 years old, he is not the pitcher he had been during his 11 game stint in Oakland in 2014. He is not even the same pitcher he was back in 2018, when he led the National League in wins and made his fifth All Star team. Yet, he was still a solid pitcher last season, posting a 4.46 ERA (worth an ERA+ of 100, making him essentially league average) and a 1.497 WHiP. Lester did strike out 165 batters in his 171.2 innings while issuing only 52 walks, but he also allowed an NL high 205 hits.
As Lester enters the last year of his contract, he has not given any indication that he is contemplating retirement. To the contrary, he has displayed a desire to continue pitching. Chances are, Lester would not break the bank in free agency, and a one year deal may be enough to land his services.
Lester would be far more than his statistics. He would be that veteran mentor, someone to guide the young rotation through the trials of the regular season and help them prepare for the postseason. He would slide into the back of the rotation, a dependable arm that has been through the battles before.
The Oakland Athletics rotation for 2021 is just about set. But if they are looking for another veteran mentor, Jon Lester could be the answer.