Why the St. Louis Cardinals traded for Jon Lester
By Brett Ramsey
While the St. Louis Cardinals were largely silent during the trade deadline, they did add some pitching depth. One name in particular should sound quite familiar to fans.
The St. Louis Cardinals, in typical fashion, were relatively dormant during MLB’s annual trade deadline. As has been the case for several seasons now, the trade deadline comes and goes not with a thump, but with a whimper. Although the front office predictably stood pat from making big changes, they did add a few starting pitchers to serve as depth. These pitchers were J.A. Happ and Jon Lester.
Happ has been a valuable MLB pitcher during his career but has had a rough 2021 season. His ERA sits at 6.77 at the time of this writing and he’s accounted for -1.9 WAR (wins above replacement).
Lester, as Cardinals fans might recall, was a crucial part of the Chicago Cubs championship team. Before that, he was an accomplished pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Now, he is a Cardinals pitcher.
Yes, that’s right. The next time Jon Lester takes the mound he’ll be wearing birds on the bat across his chest.
Lester in 2021 has not fared much better than Happ. His ERA is 5.02, and also has a negative WAR (-0.9). But not long ago he was the ace of a championship contending team. Now, don’t get me wrong. The Cardinals are not getting that Jon Lester, but if he and/or Happ can provide quality innings at the back of the starting rotation, it will be a boost to a pitching staff that needs it.
As a whole, the Cardinals’ trade deadline approach was disappointing. They were one of the few teams not to make at least one significant trade, either buying or selling. The organizational approach right now seems directionless. The trade deadline was the latest example. At least they didn’t stay completely inactive. and they did add two proven pitchers who can eat some innings. But needless to say, most people would not give the Cardinals a passing grade on their trade deadline report card.
The Cardinals did, if nothing else, add some intrigue to a team that has gone a bit stale in the eyes of some parts of the fanbase. Seeing Lester in Cardinals red with the two birds across his chest will be a sight that fans might have to get used to, especially after all those years of seeing “Chicago” there. Lester’s half-season with the Washington Nationals didn’t go particularly well, but maybe he can find a groove in St. Louis.
Lester and Happ are both on expiring one year deals, and both are in their later 30s so it’s possible, if not likely, these adds are purely rentals. However, a team can never have enough pitching (a lesson the Cardinals might have started to figure out) and either or both could likely be brought back for a reasonable price next season as depth if the match fits and the Cardinals are so inclined.
But one thing at a time, and for now the Cardinals ended trade deadline day with little excitement to arouse a fatigued fanbase. Maybe Lester can show some flashes of his Cubs prime and help lead the Cardinals back into playoff contention.
Regardless, seeing him pitching at Busch Stadium walking out of the home team’s dugout with be a sight to see.