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We went from not knowing whether the Cubs were definitively in on free agent starter Edwin Jackson to learning that they are once again in the final two for a semi-coveted free agent.

According to Jim Bowden, at least. He says that the Padres are now out on Jackson, who is down to the Cubs and the Rangers. Further, the reason the Padres are out? They refused to go to four years. That suggests that the Cubs (and Rangers) are willing to go to four years.

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.

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.

Ultimately, I concluded that Jackson would be an acceptable target for the Cubs, even if he isn’t a substitute for Anibal Sanchez.

The Rangers, like the Cubs (more so, even), have missed out on their preferred targets this offseason, and could be looking at Jackson as their one last chance to get a guy they really want. Or, like the Cubs, Jackson could be a back-up plan for whom they aren’t willing to go to the mat. It seems like, if it really is down to the Rangers and the Cubs, each team has an incentive to bid aggressively – which means the “winner” could be staring down a dicey four-year, $52 to $56 million contract.

Or, some other team will swoop in and grab him.

We’ll just have to see where this goes.

MINOR UPDATE: A couple quick addendums: Keep in mind that Bowden was one of the few media folks erroneously who piggy-backed on the Bob Nightengale report that the Cubs had signed Anibal Sanchez. Also, if the money is even, I think the Cubs will have a tough time beating out Jackson, unless they can convince him that pitching at Wrigley is much better for him (probably true), and that the team will be very good very soon (dicier). The Rangers are good, and they’re set up to be good for a little while yet. Hard to get mad at a free agent for choosing them unless the Cubs go over the top with the money.

  • Spoda17

    … yikes… not even sure how I feel about this… 50% of me would pass… but the other 90% would go for it… uh.. hello…

  • Jeremy

    Yeah, unless we overpay for him, he will be going to Texas. I don’t get why he would come here is the money is the same.

    • J Wilson

      Especially when you consider TX has no state income tax. The Cubs have to beat the Rangers offer significantly. And that’s before you factor in the fact that the Rangers are a much better team.

  • calicubsfan007

    As long as we don’t overpay for him, I think we should get him. Then our pitching would be pretty decent.

  • Spencer

    What would this mean to the rotation? I wonder if it would be safe to assume that if the Cubs acquire any other starter this winter that Wood would get bounced to the bullpen. Not entirely sure how I feel about that.

    • DarthHater

      Baker won’t be ready to go by opening day. By the time he is ready, somebody else will probably get injured. I wouldn’t be too worried about Wood for a while.

      • Spencer

        Is Baker for sure not going to be ready on opening day? He had TJS last April.

        • DarthHater

          I dunno. I think I read somewhere that he probably would not be ready.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It means that, or it means the Cubs are going to be serious about shopping Garza this Spring. But that was potentially true with a Sanchez signing, too. We just didn’t get that far.

      • Jeremy

        I’d say if he signs here they would be serious about shopping him in the spring, but if he doesn’t they might be better off keeping him. Especially with 2014′s weak pitching class.

  • http://www.sportsdanny.com Dan

    I think he’s a guy that will disappear once he gets a long term deal but in Theo I trust

  • curt

    this just in all signs from the pundits say jackson has signed with the cubs no wait all signs also say the rangers lol. anyways i hope the cubs get him it woulkd be a nice start back to respectability.

  • Joker

    Meh.

    • afinch

      Couldn’t have said it any better.

  • Chris

    It’s a telling difference between the state of two ball clubs that he would be like a #4/5 on the Rangers and a #2 on the Cubs, maybe even the ace if they trade Garza.

  • Brian cubs fan

    Atleast Bob nightengale isnt reporting it. He is the best option after anibal sanchez

  • DarthHater

    Edwin Jackson has a Twitter account: @EJ36

    Love bomb him. ;-)

  • OJ

    Meh. Not a player you want to overpay for. Let Texas have him.

  • Kev

    I hope the Cubs sign him just so we can start calling him “Jax” and making Mortal Kombat references/jokes every time he wins.

    • Camiata2

      And after every loss there will be calls to FINISH HIM re: him and/or the FO. Too bad big Z is no longer here, he could have been Goro.

  • daveyrosello

    I still don’t understand why you wouldn’t go for Marcum before Jackson. That 6 teams in 7 years thing, or whatever the specific numbers are, that’s a huge red flag for me.

    • calicubsfan007

      @davey: For all we know, the Cubs could be in pursuit of Marcum. I wouldn’t be surprised. That would be ridiculous if we got both. And Villanueva, because I seriously doubt Toronto wants or can afford him anymore after their shopping spree.

  • Matt

    Just shows you that people complain on here and other forums about the cubs not trying to do something but those people have no idea what is going on behind the scenes. There is probably so much going on that we never hear of. I’m certain of that. Just because we don’t here something from Kaplan, Rosentahl, etc….. doesn’t mean that things aren’t going on. Theo and Jed and CO. are extremely smart baseball minds and they like to hold things close. The only reason other things have leaked is because of another organization or another player have leaked it. Maybe we sign Jackson and maybe we don’t but this and the Anibal Sanchez news just shows that people have no idea. I really like how Theo and Jed and Co. work things. Very professional and discrete.

    • calicubsfan007

      @Matt: I agree 100 percent. In theo I trust. (=

  • mudge

    The Dodgers will give him 12 years and use him out of the pen.

  • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

    Need this. People need to realize that pitching is only going to get much more expensive in the coming years. If you think Edwin Jackson and Shields are expensive (in money and trade chits respectively), wait until you see what it costs when Garza is the only decent pitcher on the FA market and the Rays are trading Price next year.

    • DarthHater

      I agree. When the price goes up in the coming years, the contract that a guy like Jackson gets this year will seem more and more reasonable.

  • Brian Peters

    4 years of EJ? I think not.

    • Justin

      He has pitched over 200 innings and we were going to give Sanchez more who has never pitched over 200. Why not?

  • JulioZuleta

    I’d rather have Jackson at 4/50 than Sanchez at 5/80, that’s for sure.

    • Craig

      I agree. Five years too long for a pitcher. Jackson has proved to be a healthy, decent innings leader

      • Craig

        Innings eater

    • JulioZuleta

      He’s also more attractive than he might otherwise be bc we won’t have to give up a pick to sign him. That was a real bad move by the Nats.

    • http://bleachernation FERRIS

      agreed

  • Justin

    And here we go again

  • JR

    4/48 I am ok with I guess. More than that just seems like too much. It’s insane how the market has changed. Jackson only got a 1 yr $12 million deal last year coming off a better a yr, he’s going to blow that out of the water.
    Why didn’t Washington offer him a qualifying offer again? Worst case scenario they could have just traded him.

  • DarthHater

    BTW, I’m still occasionally reading comments in various places about Jackson and Boras. Jackson is not a Boras client. He fired Boras a while back and is now with the Legacy Agency.

  • Justin

    I am saying 4 yr/50 mil with club option for 13-14 mil for 5th year with 2 mil buyout.

    • Justin

      Also I am guessing Jackson is trying to beat Dotel for playing for the most teams in a career

  • DarthHater

    Some a-hole is doing a fake Nightengale retweet saying that Jacksion has signed with the Cubs. :-P

  • Jeremy

    We absolutely need to land Jackson. Can’t depend on A-ballers to fix the rotation, no matter how high their ceilings are, especially with the poor 2014 FA class.

  • Diggs

    I like Jackson — feel like he’s a little underrated. Just don’t know why he’d choose the Cubs over the Rangers unless they massively overpay him.

    • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

      PSD insidery guy says he prefers the NL and likes the fact that the Cubs have shown interest all offseason while the Rangers jumped in at the last minute.

      That, of course, can suddenly mean nothing if there’s an extra few million on the table.

      • Diggs

        Yeah, and I’m sure the NL is much more desirable for pitchers now, especially when you’re looking at having to face the Angels a whole bunch. Here’s hoping the Cubs can pull it off.

  • Josh

    A rotation with Garza as the 3, Shark as the 4, and E-Jax as the 5 would be WS caliber

    Problem is we need to add a WS caliber 1/2 as well. With that being said I really hope we are able to land Jackson

    • Bigg J

      Uhhh your missing 1 and 2 there

      • Josh

        Hence why I said we also need a 1/2

  • thejackal

    i dnt understand the concept of signing jackson then shipping garza off . True it gives us a good prospect but its like takin a step forward and two steps back. i understand our boys in the minors wont be arriving till 2-3 years i dont think jackson is that good of a piece .Its a def upgrade to our rotation but dont see where he fits unless were ready to compete now

  • louis

    This would be a nice little playoff rotation…

    David Price (trade for)
    Matt Garza (extend)
    Jeff Samardzija
    Phil Hughes (sign next year)
    Edwin Jackson (sign this year)

    • afinch

      I want Hughes now in a trade involving Soriano. Hughes or Nova. I keep saying this but both are available for the right price.

      • calicubsfan007

        @afinch: I think Hughes is a better deal, he is more proven in my opinion compared to Nova. But I would definitely not complain if we got Nova instead.

        • afinch

          Only issue with getting Hughes: he’s a free agent after this year.

          • louis

            I do not see signing a free agent as a problem at all. I’d rather sign him next year then lose 2 very good prospects and then sign him to an extension. What’s your opinion on this?

            • afinch

              I would agree. Best way to be a consistently competitive team? Solid starting pitching. Hughes isn’t and will never be and ace, but he could be a solid piece.

              • louis

                I would def love to have Hughes in his prime years! He has a chance just like Shark to be a solid 2-3 starter for the next 5+ years

                • calicubsfan007

                  @louis: If we got Hughes, I would have no prob trading Garza

              • calicubsfan007

                @afinch: And he isn’t too old either. The type Theo would go for.

  • Bigg J

    So we just had to deal with Sanchez’s agent who in my book is a total a-hole and now we have to deal with the worst a-hole agent ever in Boras

    • OJ

      Edwin Jackson left Boras.

  • cRAaZYHORSE

    Ranger Vs Cubs? State with no income tax VS state with high income tax, Winners VS 6 rebuilding plan The winner is ……….

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