Cubs decline Jon Lester's $25-million option for 2021, making him a free agent

Theo Epstein has left open the possibility of Lester returning to the Cubs in 2021.

(670 The Score) The Cubs declined left-hander Jon Lester’s $25-million option for the 2021 season, they announced Friday, triggering a $10-million buyout and making him a free agent.

While the expected move could well mark the end of Lester’s tenure in Chicago, both sides have kept an open mind about Lester returning. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein has left the door open for Lester to come back in the right circumstance – in other words, depending on what the team decides to do with its No. 5 spot in the rotation and what Lester's cost it – and Lester has expressed his desire to return to the Cubs.

“I’ve definitely appreciated everything this organization has done for me,” Lester said near the end of the Cubs’ season. “I hope it’s not it. I hope we can figure something out for next year.”

Lester was 3-3 with a 5.16 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 12 starts in 2020. He has gone 77-44 with a 3.64 ERA in 171 starts over six seasons with the Cubs. He was co-MVP of the 2016 National League Championship Series, going 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA as Chicago earned its first pennant since 1945 before going on to win the World Series.

The Cubs officially exercised the 2021 option on first baseman Anthony Rizzo, the team announced Saturday. He's due $16.5 million next season. Infielder Daniel Descalso had his $3.5 million option declined by the team.

In other moves, the Cubs assigned lefty reliever Rex Brothers outright to Triple-A Iowa and claimed infielder Max Schrock off waivers from the Cardinals. The 26-year-old Schrock has hit .300 over five minor league seasons. The Cubs' 40-man roster sits at 31 players.