The San Francisco Giants have made no secret about their plans to upgrade a starting rotation that finished 15th in Wins Above Replacement (per Fangraphs) and ninth in FIP in 2020.
Re-signing Kevin Gausman was a strong start, though losing Drew Smyly in free agency was certainly a step backwards. And one they’re looking at potentially offsetting with the veteran addition of left-hander Jon Lester.
According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Giants have shown interest in the five-time All-Star as they look to improve their roster.
Sources: #SFGiants interested in free agent LHP Jon Lester. The Giants would like to add one more starting pitcher this offseason, and Lester seriously considered signing with San Francisco before joining the #Cubs after the '14 season. @MLB @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 24, 2020
The Giants were deep in the running for Lester’s services six years ago, when he was one of the top free agents on the market. The Giants were defending champions, and had won the World Series in three of the past five seasons, but still finished runner-up to two big name free agents: Lester, and their own Pablo Sandoval.
A lot has changed since then, and Lester is no longer the ace that he was when he hit the market in 2014. In fact, he’s coming off a bad year, in which he had a 5.16 ERA and 5.14 FIP, with 42 strikeouts to 17 walks in 61 innings.
Still, if the Giants can overlook in Lester’s struggles in the coronavirus-altered 60-game season, there are some things to be intrigued by. A year ago Lester was worth 2.8 fWAR, and carried a 4.26 FIP. His 0.3 fWAR 2020 ended a streak of 12 straight seasons being worth at least 2 fWAR.
The Giants are coming off a season in which they saw numerous players — including both Gausman and Smyly — take significant steps forward. Perhaps it was luck or small sample size shenanigans, but the players all seemed to point towards the large and modern coaching staff. If that staff sees something intriguing in Lester, it’s not wild to think that they could get him back to being a quality starting pitcher.
It likely depends on the type of contract that Lester is commanding. He’ll be 37 on Opening Day, and the Giants aren’t yet contenders, so they won’t want to put much money into that basket, and I’d be quite surprised if they had any interest in a multi-year deal.
If the price is right, Lester could prove to be an intriguing and valuable signing. Or he could prove to be a bad signing, which is always a possibility as well...