After losing the 2020 Wild Card Series to the Miami Marlins in two games, the Cubs have lost key figures, both on the field and in the front office.
The Cubs didn’t extend Kyle Schwarber a qualifying offer
Kyle Schwarber’s final season with the Cubs in 2020 was a disaster. He batted just .188 and struck out 60 times. The 27-year-old hit 11 home runs and drove in 24 runs.
The Cubs opted not to extend Schwarber a qualifying offer after the season, allowing him to enter unrestricted free agency. The outfielder signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Nationals, ending his run in Chicago.
Schwarber was part of the 2016 Cubs team, which won the World Series over the Cleveland Indians. He served as the team’s designated hitter during the World Series, batting .412. It was incredible to watch Schwarber recover from his ACL tear and help Chicago win the championship.
Unfortunately, Schwarber struggled with the Cubs after the World Series title. He hit .211 in 2017, .238 in 2018, and .250 in 2019. The fan-favorite finished his Chicago career with 121 home runs and 279 RBI’s in 551 games.
Since the Cubs are rebuilding, it made sense for the franchise to let Kyle Schwarber go. However, many fans of the team weren’t pleased with the front office’s decision not to bring back pitcher Jon Lester, who is joining Schwarber on the Nationals.
Jon Lester is signing a one-year deal with the Nationals
Jon Lester is the best free-agent signing in Cubs franchise history. The lefty signed with Chicago in 2014 and helped the organization win its first World Series title in 108 years in 2016. In six years with the Cubs, Lester won 77 games and struck out 940 batters. He compiled an ERA of 3.64 in the regular season and was a monster in the postseason.
The Cubs could have brought Lester back as a mentor. He would have provided some guidance to the younger guys on the pitching staff. However, Chicago chose to decline Lester’s $25 million option for the 2021 season.
In 2020, Lester went 3-3 and had an ERA of 5.16. He’s no longer a superstar pitcher, but Lester doesn’t have to be one on the Nationals, who have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin as the aces.
Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber will always be legends in Chicago after winning a title with the Cubs. Now, the two stars will try and win another championship with the Nationals, a team trying to get back on track in 2021 after struggling in 2020.
The Cubs are trending downward, while the Nationals are heading in the right direction
The Nationals won the World Series in 2019 over the Houston Astros. However, the team regressed in 2020, missing the playoffs entirely. Dave Martinez’s group went 26-34 during the shortened season and finished in fourth place in the NL East standings.
After signing Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber and trading for first baseman Josh Bell from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Nationals are focused on returning to the playoffs this season and proving that their 2019 title wasn’t a fluke. With their top three pitchers making big money, it makes sense for the Nationals to go for it all in 2021.
Meanwhile, after losing Theo Epstein in the front office and letting Lester and Schwarber walk in free agency, the Cubs are expected to miss the playoffs this season.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.