So, Let’s Talk About Edwin Jackson

After the Chicago Cubs missed out on Anibal Sanchez – tired of hearing that introductory clause yet? – or, more to the point, after the Chicago Cubs demonstrated a willingness to go after 28/29-year-old free agent starting pitchers who require a multiyear commitment, just about everyone had one name on their lips:

Edwin Jackson.

As I noted on Saturday, each of Bruce Levine, Paul Sullivan, and Gordon Wittenmyer suggested Jackson as the Cubs’ next target, albeit with words like “could,” “might,” and “may.” Given the superficial similarities between Sanchez and Jackson – they’re both free agent right-handed starters, they’ll both be 29 next season, they both are above-average starters, etc. – it’s understandable that his would be the first name that came up. Indeed, I do hope the Cubs pursue him.

But Sanchez and Jackson are as noteworthy for their differences as they are for their similarities.

Jackson’s Major League career ERA+ is 98. That means, for his career – which admittedly started at the tender age of 19 (yes, he was a super-prospect) – Jackson’s performance has been below average (ERA+ is adjusted for ballpark and league, and is scaled such that 100 is average). Even in his best years, from 2009 to 2012, his ERA+ is just 106. Above average, sure, but hardly more than what you’d want from, say, your number three or four starter. Heck, on a very good team, that might be what you want out of the guy at the back-end. Sanchez’s career ERA+ is 110.

Further, WAR says that, while Sanchez has been worth a lofty 4.4 and 3.8 wins in 2011 and 2012, the season in which he really broke out, Jackson was worth slightly less, at 3.9 and 2.7.

And, while Sanchez just re-signed long-term with the second team he’s played for (the team to which he was traded by the only other team he’d ever played for), Jackson is seeking his seventh team in the last six years. Is that meaningful? Is it just a career fluke? Maybe. But it’s noteworthy.

The point of this exercise, of course, is not to diminish Jackson – he’s a fine pitcher, and we’ll get to that – but instead to point out that it is not as if Jackson is simply a perfect Sanchez replacement. The latter is six months younger, has been more productive recently, and looks poised to be a front of the rotation type. The latter is a solid, relatively consistent middle of the rotation type.

To his credit, Jackson’s xFIP (which judges a pitcher’s performance only on those things he can control, and normalizes for home runs (which tend to fluctuate wildly, year to year)), has been a very solid 3.71, 3.73, 3.79 each of the last three years, despite ERAs of 4.47, 3.79, and 4.03. In other words, he may have been a fair bit better than his ERA says he was. His walk rate has been decreasing over that stretch, and his strikeout rate has been a touch higher than his career mark. Those are good signs.

And that three year stretch comes on the heels of his 3.62 ERA, 125 ERA+ 2009 All-Star season. So, let’s not be totally unfair: he’s been a good pitcher the last four years.

Against that backdrop, do you want Jackson in your rotation? Of course. Most teams would.

The price, however, is the question. Jackson went into free agency last year expecting his first big pay day, saw the market dry up, and had to settle with a one-year, $11 million deal with the Nationals. After the 2012 season, when confronted with the choice of offering Jackson a qualifying one-year, $13.5 million contract so that they could secure a draft pick if he signed elsewhere, the Nationals elected not to do so. In other words, they feared his market might be such that he would accept the one-year, $13.5 million offer. That was either a huge mis-read of the market by the Nationals, or an indication of where Jackson’s price ceiling is going to fall.

The Padres have reportedly been negotiating extensively with Jackson on a three-year deal, believed to be in the $12 million per year range (though the seriousness of those discussions is subject to some debate). The Rangers, among other teams, are believed to be interested, and Jackson is believed to prefer a four or five-year deal.

You don’t need me to explain why the Cubs would be very interested at just three years and $36 million, assuming they have interest in Jackson at all. In other words, absent some physical or clubhouse issue to which we’re not privy, I can’t fathom Jackson is going to sign for so little. In that price range, I’d be very upset if the Cubs weren’t heavily involved – especially considering that the Padres, like the Cubs, are a rebuilding organization.

But should the Cubs up the ante to four or five years, and $13 or $14 million? You could certainly make the argument, given Jackson’s durability (he’s thrown more than 189 innings each of the last four years), that he’d be worth that investment. He’s not a difference-maker in the way Sanchez could have been, but he could be a part of the Cubs’ next competitive rotation. With Jackson in place through, say 2016, the Cubs would have a fair excuse to push to lock up Matt Garza for the same range, and they would then have Garza, Jackson, and Jeff Samardzija all in place for their likely next competitive window. A great team would need another starter (preferably an ace), but that’s not a bad pitching core.

I guess, at bottom, I’d like to see the Cubs involved here for all of the same reasons I wanted to see them involved in Sanchez, even if I don’t think Jackson is quite the pitcher that Sanchez is.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

143 responses to “So, Let’s Talk About Edwin Jackson”

  1. North Side Irish

    Jason Beck ‏@beckjason
    Agent Gene Mato said Anibal Sanchez “left money on the table” from an offer from another club at winter meetings. It wasn’t the Cubs.

    Tigers beat reporter for MLB.com…

    1. Kyle

      Agent Gene Mato also says that women leave him because he’s just too much of a man.

      This is just like when the Cubs draft some kid sixth and leak that he really was their No. 1 choice overall. It’s just something people say after the fact. It doesn’t mean anything.

      1. North Side Irish

        I guess I shouldn’t believe a word these journalists report…

        1. Kyle

          You should absolutely believe what the journalist reports.

          If the journalist reports “Person said X”, then person almost certainly did say X. I have no doubt that Gene Mato said that Sanchez left money on the table. that doesn’t make it true.

    2. Internet Random

      Tigers beat

      a0f5da992ada5a76d968aa13697d627e.jpg

  2. Kyle

    Don’t forget that ERA+ includes all pitchers, and relief pitchers by their nature tend to have better ERAs. A starting pitcher with an ERA+ of 100 is slightly better than average.

    You simply cannot pass on Jackson is he is available and you intend on fielding a competitive baseball team in 2013, 2014 or even 2015. The starting pitching is going to be a major problem, and each year that goes by it will be harder to fill.

    1. DarthHater

      I agree, although if one is only talking about a deal through 2015, I’m not sure that Jackson is a better choice than Marcum.

    2. Norm

      I think the Cubs can still plan on putting up a competitive baseball team in 2014 and 2015 without Edwin Jackson.

      1. Kyle

        Sure they can. But that plan includes pulling off a lot more difficult feats, such as “Outbidding 15 teams that need a starting pitcher for the one good one on the market” or “Hoping Alberto Cabrera doesn’t suck as a starter like he did all the other times he was a starter.”

        The medium-term situation is pretty dire for the Cubs pitching-wise, and it’s not as if the offense is amazing.

    3. Eric

      which is why it was so god damn important to get sanchez. I would have topped out at 5/85 or even 6/90 and if that didn’t work, well atleast I would be happy with that offer. 5/77.5 was just a tad too low of a final offer for a guy as important as sanchez would have been to our rotation going forward.

      1. MichiganGoat

        I doubt we had that much of a chance, he wanted to be in Detriot and the Tigers were willing to pay him. Unless the Cubs hit 100M he might have still gone with the Tigers for 5/80 over a 6/90 deal from the Cubs.

  3. Njriv

    What’s going on with Schierholtz? (sp?) Was his signing made official yet?

  4. Tim

    I can’t wait for spring training.

    1. Internet Random

      You can, and you will.

  5. rcleven

    Mickey Story DFAed. Worth a shot for Cubs?

    1. BWA

      no

      1. Bret Epic

        3.86 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 30 innings of work isn’t bad at all.

        1. #1cubsfan2013

          shit u beat me to it lol

          1. Bret Epic

            I think at this point, the Cubs are willing to give just about anyone a look, except for guys we’ve dropped from last year…such as Volstad.

    2. DarthHater

      Has he had TJS? ;-)

  6. #1cubsfan2013

    i agree story can be a good pitcher in the bullpen 1.220WHIP
    ,10.1 so/9, 3bb/9, SO/BB and a 3.86 era not terrible numbers

  7. frank hutch

    Is junnior lake a possibility at 3b if he has a good spring? Just a thought

    1. Luke

      Not likely. He needs quite a bit more seasoning in the minors before he could fairly be expected to hold down an everyday job in the majors.

      Maybe in the second half he could be considered a possibility, but 2014 is more likely.

      1. ssckelley

        Luke, do you say this because his glove needs more work, his bat, or both? I look at who the Cubs have at third and I wonder if Lake is going to get a shot in spring training. What do they have to lose?

    2. Pat

      I hope that we do not give out any jobs based on spring training results, except maybe the last spot or two in the bullpen. That’s how we ended up with the negative contributions of Joe Mather last year. It’s just not a large enough sample.

  8. ferris

    jackson is a smart play for this team he’s 29 innings eater, respectable number three guy,and if the rumors of us trading garza to tx. or laa are true then we def. need him. 4yrs 44-50 mm range

  9. Walter Sobchak

    Jackson would be a great sign for 4-48 with an option for a 5th….. A great 3/4 with potential for more but he has a very high floor….. Solid sign we should go after him it’s not daily you can sign 29 year old sp…….watch how high garza’s value rockets if he’s healthy and is successful up to trade deadline

  10. MattM

    I want to start off by saying that the FIRST thing we should talk about is WHIP which last year was 1.218 which is WELL above average. In addition his trends show he is getting better and better. Walks are getting lower which you can’t argue with which shows me that that 1.218 is no fluke. In a full season Sanchez had NEVER had a WHIP that low and there is now trend showing me that he will.

    In this case WAR and ERA+ is no better that Wins and Losses. It’s not showing the whole picture! Jackson had less people per inning getting on base than Sanchez which noone can dispute. In addition his k/9 were way higher! The only thing I see better on Sanchez’s part is that he had a better ERA and less walks.

    In addition to that Sanchez went to a league where noone saw him pitch and his numbers where not that much better.

    If you look at trends I would bet my hat that over the course of the next few years Jackson will be proven to be a more valuable signing than Sanchez.

    1. Patrick W.

      How valuable is the hat?

  11. Justin

    Since we are going after late inning relievers, why don’t we go after Hannrahan? I know he is past his prime, but so are the relievers we have as well. Also, I know it will be hard to trade within division, but I think he would be a good presence to have late in games. Any thoughts?

    1. Justin

      That’s what I was thinking too because I doubt he would come cheap since within division

  12. Rizzo44

    Save up this money for Josh Johnson next year..Don’t want to spend that much on Jackson.. Maybe sign both Jiar Jurrgens and Carlos Villanueva but not Edwin…

  13. Serious Cubs Fan

    I really would only want Edwin Jackson if it were on a team friendly deal, this guy is absolutely not worth over paying for. He’s not that good, but he’s not bad.

    1. Serious Cubs Fan

      Jackson is a very solid pitcher but he’s a #4 or #5 on a serious WS contending rotation. He would have to be the Cubs #4 when were competing and I don’t see us seriously competing for a WS till 2015-2016. He’d be he’d be leaving his prime by then. I basically don’t feel comfortable giving a guy of his talent a 4-5yr deal worth $13-14 mil a yr. There is a reason this guy has been on 7 teams in 6yrs

  14. daveyrosello

    There’s really no hope for the Cubs near term, and the outlook for 2013 at this point is downright funereal. Seriously: would you not say the odds are at least 50-50 that the Cubs have the #2 overall pick for a second straight year in 2014? And probably 95% chance they have at least the #3 pick? Because other than the miserable Astros and the Marlins, I don’t see any team out there that is worse than the Cubs. Guh.

    1. MichiganGoat

      That’s hard to say at this point, if the Cubs didn’t aggressively sell at the deadline we’d have not finished with 100 losses and there is still plenty of time to make some more moves. A healthy Garza if he’s not traded combined with Rizzo and Castro progressing they Cubs might be better than you think. Patience Chicken Little the sky is not falling.

  15. Fastball

    Jackson never embarrassed himself pitching in the play offs for the Cards or the Nats that I saw. I thought he looked solid and gave both of those teams 7 strong innings each time out. I do know that he is a pitcher and not a thrower. So another thing to consider is that when he was with the Cards he had Theriot playing shortstop half a season and 2b half the season. Hell that will make your ERA go up no matter how you measure it. Anybody who pitches with Theriot or Fontenot as middle infielder should get a free tax credit each year.

  16. KidCubbie

    Tigers taking calls on Drew Smyley. Would like to see the Cubs jump on that one.

    1. DarthHater

      If it’s true that the Cubs & Tigers couldn’t find a match for Porcello, I’m not sure why there would be a match for Smyly.

      1. TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

        I’d rather see them try and get Casey Crosby

    2. Voice of reason

      The problem is the cubs have absolutely nothing to offer the tigers.

      1. TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

        I disagree, eat some money and offer them Marmol. They need a closer, I doubt that they will just hand Rondon the keys to closer.

  17. Mike S

    Would Barney be enough for Smyly?

    1. Jason

      Not until after the convention…I got my wife to go, only because she likes Barney…If he’s not there, it will be quite an upsetting moment for her…

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        And not then, either!

  18. 2much2say

    Garza Smily Jeff Z Baker Feldman
    Bourn/Dejesus Castellanos Soriano Rizzo Swisher AJ Lake Barney

  19. 2much2say

    Last year I mentioned Maholm long b4 anyone else and advocated for keeping Soriano
    I have a pretty good track record in that regard. Bourn 3/4 / Swish 2 yr / AJ 2 yr = Win now

    1. Kevin B

      I actually would not mind seeing AJ on a two year deal to go with Castillo but I do not think the Cubs will do it since they signed Navarro. Though AJ could put some offense into the team and if we are not competing and he is hitting he would bring a decent return at the deadline (if he had a two year deal – a one year deal he would not bring much). I do not see the Cubs doing it.

      Likewise I would like Swisher on a 2 year deal for similar reasons if we could get him – I doubt it, for 2 years he could have Texas or other contenders to choose from.

      Bourn for three years in a heartbeat. 4 I really do not think I would do that unless we front load the contract and the 4th year then would not be so expensive.

      1. King Jeff

        I think AJ would be the one player that would make me not want to watch the Cubs. I absolutely can not stand that guy.

        Also, I think Swisher is negotiating with Cleveland on a 4 or 5 year deal. As much as we want some of these free agents on good deals, it just isn’t going to happen with the bigger name players like Swisher and Sanchez.

  20. Chad

    Tigers reportedly shopping Porcello and Smyly. I could see the cubs in on either depending the price. I would prefer Smyly, but I think he would take more to get.

  21. 2much2say

    Ahem
    Silent Cubs, Holes everywhere, all is lost, all is bust, Can’t sign Sanchez or even Jackson,
    Theo Jed have tried their hardest, Sleep until 2014 Sleep until 2014

  22. Report: Edwin Jackson “Down to Cubs and Rangers” | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary

    [...] I wrote extensively about Jackson as a possible Cubs target yesterday. Among my thoughts, for those who hadn’t seen them: To his credit, Jackson’s xFIP (which judges a pitcher’s performance only on those things he can control, and normalizes for home runs (which tend to fluctuate wildly, year to year)), has been a very solid 3.71, 3.73, 3.79 each of the last three years, despite ERAs of 4.47, 3.79, and 4.03. In other words, he may have been a fair bit better than his ERA says he was. His walk rate has been decreasing over that stretch, and his strikeout rate has been a touch higher than his career mark. Those are good signs. [...]