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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.

  • Patrick G

    I like marcum better, but jax would be good for the right price. If cubs could get both on the cheap I think that rotation would be surprisingly good

    • calicubsfan007

      @Patrick: Agreed. Then get Hughes and that would be an epic rotation compared to the crap that we had to throw out last year at times.

      • JBarnes

        I hope “compared to” were suppose to be the key words in that comment because otherwise it doesnt make sense. Your saying this is epic…

        Garza
        Jackson
        Hughes
        Marcum
        Samardzija

        Other rotations in the NL…
        WASH: Strasburg/Gonzalez/Zimmerman/Haren
        PHILS: Halladay/Lee/Hamels
        SF: Cain/Bumgarner/Lincecum
        LAD: Kershaw/Greinke/Beckett/Billingsley/Lilly/Capuano
        STL: Carpenter/Wainwright/Garcia/Lynn
        CIN: Cueto/Latos/Bailey/Chapman(?)

        We wouldn’t even have the best rotation in our division.

        • calicubsfan007

          @JBarnes: I meant that it would be really great in comparison to what we had to throw out last year. There were guys pitching for us who had no business being in the majors. It isn’t great in comparison to other teams’ pitching, I know that. I mean that it is a big step forward for ourselves in comparison to last year. That is what I meant.

          • JBarnes

            OK well i apologize then…but still IMO its not a favorable rotation. If we’re going to sign Jackson then I would like to see Garza extended and a trade for Price happen. That would be a start to a competitive rotation.

            Price
            Garza
            Jackson
            Samardzija
            ?

            Probly would look for another guy that could fit in behind Price or Garza.

            • louis

              phil hughes

            • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

              I don’t think people realize what a Price trade would mean. Tampa Bay will expect someone to write them a blank “pick our four best prospects, all of whom are close to the majors” check. I’m not opposed to it, but you will give until it hurts.

              • Tyler

                The only way I could truly fully get behind a trade for Price is if the Cubs went out and were competitive this year. A Price trade before the Cubs look like World Series contenders could potentially ruin this team by tearing up all the groundwork the FO has worked so hard to lay. If they were surprisingly competitive this year and looked like a team that was on its way to another competitive year in 2014, I’m all for trading for Price. But if they lose 95+ games, then getting rid of our top prospects for Price seems like it would only set us back, rather than push us closer to the ultimate goal of sustainable success and a constant flow of major-league ready talent waiting in the minors.

                • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

                  Price is a proven commodity, all those “prospects” in the pipe line are not all going to make it. I’d rather trade for Price than gamble on the future of will this guy or that guy be a star.

                  • Lou

                    Agreed. You need a bona fide #1 ace in your rotation, and Price looks like that guy, regardless of the timeline for competitiveness. You have to remember that if Cubs’ fans have qualms about trading top prospects, what will Yankees and Red Sox fans feel about acquiring Price. You could conceivably say it rules both teams out. With his desire to be locked after being traded and the Cubs having money to sign him to an extension, I think you make this trade if you’re the Cubs, especially with two years of value left on his contract.

                • JBarnes

                  A prospects value is more than what they can eventually provide on the field for the organization they’re currently in. It’s unrealistic to think all of our prospects will eventually play for the Cubs for a number of reasons so using some as trade pieces to acquire MLB talent is essential. Vogelbach is a perfect example, seems to have no future with the Cubs but could turn out to be very valuable in a trade with an AL team so he can DH.

                  Going into the 2014 season it’s likely the Cubs will have a top 10 farm system at worst and probly a top 5. There’s still a draft and a trade deadline to add prospects to an already solid farm system. Add in the progress of guys we already have and the system looks strong.

              • Pat

                Wait, our four best prospects are anywhere close to the majors? Not even close, unless I’m looking at completely different rankings.

            • Voice of reason

              The devil rays aren’t just going to give price to the cubs for nothing.

              What do we have that the devil rays want? We don’t have enough.

              We will lose out to other teams who will want him.

              You just can’t say trade for price!! Be realistic… The cubs don’t have enough to get him.

              • Lou

                You’re assuming this. Who really knows who will be on this team come next year. So, you can say that this early!

              • JBarnes

                I think you’re wrong saying we wouldn’t have the guys to get him. Baez is on his way to being a top 10 prospect going into the 2014 season and guys like Soler, Almora and Vogelbach could all be top 30-50 if they aren’t already. It would take a lot and I don’t know that I would even be comfortable trading Baez for him. That said I don’t see any way to get Price without involving Baez since Tampa seems to be pretty set in the OF so I think it starts with him and Vogelbach and goes from there. Another year in the minors and Vogelbach could turn himself into a big trade piece, especially interesting to AL teams.

                It’s not ridiculous to think the Cubs could be in a position to acquire Price a year from now although if teams like the Rangers get involved then its all the more challenging.

                • http://401klogic.net Westbound Willie

                  Let me tell you about how much a top ten prospect list is worth. I was listening to Rick Hahn this summer and he was discussing that back in the early 2000’s the white sox had 5 of the top ranked 100 prospects in baseball. Only one guy, joe crede ever came up and did anything and that was only for a couple years. So do you know what a top ranked farm system ( which the cubs don’t even have) is worth?

                  Absolutely nothing.

                  • JBarnes

                    @Westbound
                    They’re called PROSPECTS!! By definition nothing is fact. What the hell are you talking about? If you dont understand what the word means then don’t comment about it. They make prospect lists as a way to compare teams farm systems and as a way to let people know who scouts and experts think will be the most talented MLB players. All these people across the Internet coming on here and saying “prospects aren’t proven” and “you don’t know if a prospect will make it” just shut the hell up. You guys think you’ve come across some golden knowledge and it’s a secret about prospects. It’s not, you make yourself look ignorant by making comments like that.

                    • http://401klogic.net Westbound Willie

                      Comparing farm systems is like comparing different classes on send grade kids. It’s an impossible task so please stop wasting everyone time about good and bad farm systems.

                      Next

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      Yeah. No one could possibly tell that Mike Trout was one of the best prospects in the game before he actually played in the big leagues.

                    • hansman1982

                      I wasn’t sure if serious so I had to google:

                      Prospect Ratings by Baseball America:
                      Pre-2010: Rated #85 Prospect
                      Pre-2011: Rated #2 Prospect
                      Pre-2012: Rated #3 Prospect

                      By and large, prospect guru’s know what in the heck they are talking about. The only exception is the Cardinals farm system…

                      A strong farm system is a key to contention and maintaining as big of a window of contention as possible. It’s not about creating 2015 prospect only lineups, it’s about acquiring the James Shield’s and David Price’s of the world and still having something of use in the farm.

              • JBarnes

                @VoiceofReason
                I’m well aware of what it would take to get Price, in no way was I trying to down play that. My comment is no different than anyone else saying “go sign this guy,” it’s all speculative and for fun. Point was if the Cubs sign Jackson then I want to see an extension for Garza/Samardzija and a strong attempt at acquiring Price.

            • Nate

              Wood?

          • arta

            007, that’s how i read you the frist time.

        • louis

          I think 1-5 that they would rank pretty good in the NL

      • JBarnes

        And to piggy back my first comment, look at what some of those teams have done the past few years…

        STL: Won 2 World Series since ’06
        SF: Won 2 of the last 3 World Series
        PHILS: Won 1 World Series and lost another in 6 games

        Again just the NL…

        • calicubsfan007

          @JBarnes: I meant to compare our staff from last year over the year to what this year’s staff could be. That is all I meant. Nothing about better than any other team in the majors, never said that.

  • http://bleachernation FERRIS

    We sign Jackson…4 yr 50m….I hate to trade garza but………garza,soriano,cash to tx. for perez.olt,and ptbnl

    • Tim

      If we could get that deal from Texas I would do that in a heartbeat. Then you could probably make another trade because you have a lot of SS/3B to deal an acquire more talent elsewhere we are lacking, such as pitching….

    • Patrick G

      That’s honestly a pretty fair trade and could see something like that(hoping) since Texas keeps missing out on some top FA

    • truthhurts

      olt has proven what, exactly? oh yeah, he hit hr’s as a 24 aa player.

  • dw8

    Cubs 1st rounder is protected, correct?

    • cubchymyst

      doesn’t matter, EJax wasn’t offered a contract for next year so he doesn’t cost a pick

    • BWA

      But if say we sign bourne, We lose our second rounder

  • Fastball

    Even if we overpay his value will hold in the market as he gets a few years down the road. he goes 200 plus and can show kids how to pitch vs throw. right now we have throwers. prices on pitchers never goes down and never will. inflation on pitchers will increase. I also see absolutely no reason to move Garza that wouldn’t be smart imo. Where we going to find another Garza. we don’t have enough pitching even if we keep Garza imo. we have plenty of money to keep Garza sign Tax and still get an ace in a trade or via free agency . It baffled me why we would want to trade Garza. When do end up with a real pitching staff if we trade the good ones for prospects that are a risk at any point in their development. drive a stake in the ground and start saying we are going to be relevant starting now.

    • louis

      amen brotha

  • Billy Buck

    EJax?

    Why?

  • Billy Buck

    EJax?

    Next!

  • jesus zuniga

    So why wouldnt they give ryan dempster the 3 yrs he wanted…i thought there was going to be another year.3 teir type players..13. Per year is to much money…doesnt make sense????? Wtf!

    • louis

      Because Demp isn’t 29 lol

      • Tony S

        and he punked the FO at the deadline last season…

  • cubchymyst

    Inconceivable, the cubs are one of the last 2 teams in on a player. Prediction, the rangers will out bit the cubs because they are more in win now mode (I’m not knocking the front office just keeping my hopes down this time),

  • Tony S

    Does Edwin have the same agent as Sanchez?
    Trying it on for a second time in the same trade period.

  • http://401klogic.net Westbound Willie

    What kind of an idiot calls him ejax?

    • Billy Buck

      Hmmmm…..that was productive

  • Jeff1969

    I have a feeling Jackson would rather stay in the NL. Like Brett showed us with his xFIP as well as his other stats, he’s a slightly above average starter now. I’d much rather have him than Brandon McCarthy who would have been cheaper but far riskier.

  • 5412

    Hi,

    Boras is Jackson’s agent

    regards,
    5412

    • cjdubbya

      No. Jackson is now represented by Legacy Sports Group, not Boras Corporation

    • OJ

      for the 3rd time in this thread, EJax left Boras.

  • Rizzo44

    Garza
    Jackson
    Baker
    Samardzija
    Feldman/Wood?

    Please sign Jackson!!! This rotation looks really good on paper.. Garza should call up Jackson and convince him into coming to the Cubs. I really want Jackson, nit Marcum. Marcum is a fly ball pitcher, ehhh. Might be the next Travis Wood…. Get Edwin Jackson! 4 years, 50.

    • cub2014

      that would be an above average starting rotation,
      could be .500 plus team. maybe

      • Rizzo44

        Yeah I know. 1-4 is really nice. And the 5th starter isn’t good… Add Carlos Vilanueva or Jiar Jurrgens to that 5th spot. Or hell even call up Pierce Johnson if he’s ready…

        • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

          There are 20 teams in MLB that wish they had 5th starter options as good as Feldman and Wood.

          • jt

            Wood gave up 25 HR’s in 156 IP during 2012. 12 of those came in 3 of his 26 starts. He also had 3 games in which he allowed 2 HR’s. The multi HR games were games in which his ER’s allowed were high. Don’t know if it is a function of the wind or that he just has bad days but there is no reason to think that he wont suck about 20% to 25% of his starts.
            Having said that, the games in which he didn’t allow multi HR’s were outstanding.
            The guy has not proved himself to be consistent enough to be in the front end of the rotation. But if he can give the team a really very good chance to win about 75% of the time as the number 4 pitcher… well, that would be pretty good.

            • hansman1982

              What you just described there is a 5th starter. Most of the time this is a guy that is on the bubble to long relief or AAA.

  • Zachary

    Marcum is not a fly ball pitcher

  • Dumpgobbler

    *Inserts “Oh, down to Cubs and Rangers? Have fun in Texas Jackson.” Joke*

  • Mike

    I’ll take Marcum for less money and less years than Edwin Jackson for more.

  • http://Cubkid jdblades7

    Marcum is two years older, but his winning percentage is way better than Jackson’s and Sanchez’s. Also, his ERA is close if not better. His innings pitched is the only negative and it’s not not too bad either.

    • bbmoney

      There is so much pitcher’s can’t control when it comes to win/loss record that I don’t really care about who’s w/l record is better to this point in their career.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I don’t even mention that “stat” anymore – only in-season, and only then as an anecdotal thing, not a predictive/evaluative thing.

  • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

    Suddenly, when things seem at their darkest, a second Theo Epstein crashes into the room. He’s dressed to the nines and has eyes that cut through your soul with their cool steel.

    Suddenly, our Theo Epstein looks nervous and afraid. It’s clear he’s been an imposter, a manchurian president, and he’s been exposed. We all feel dumb for having fallen for it. He looks so feeble in the presence of the Real Deal.

    Real Theo knocks out the imposter with a single punch and sits down at the controls. “Sorry I’m late. I trust you’ve been having a *ball* without me,” he says with a smirk, accenting the pun lightly in a Bondsian manner (James, not Barry).

    Within weeks, the damage is undone. He signs Jackson and Bourn and flips an awesome trade for a relief ace and a good right-handed utility man.

    On the back of our waves of pitching and patchwork offense (along with Ian Stewart’s breakthrough), a quick hot streak in early July puts us 10 games over .500. We flip Vitters for a slugging right-fielder and win the Wild Card.

    • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

      Wow, that blew my mind.

    • calicubsfan007

      Like that story. Happy ending. (= I thought that you didn’t like Theo period, imposter or legit.

    • Rizzo44

      I have chills.

      • Mike L.

        This person has way too much time on his hands. And I hope he’s right!

  • The Dude

    I think this would be a very solid pick-up. Not crazy about overpaying to get him but overpaying is a very relative term in MLB free agency. But having him as the #3 next year and eventually a 12/13M #4 on a 2014 team is a solid strategy. I think if you’re gonna spend money in FA, pitchers are where it’s at. Position players should generally be homegrown, mid-tier FA supplemented.

  • http://facebook #1cubsfan2013

    some dumbass is saying jax signed with texas pending physical i dont believe it

    • DocPeterWimsey

      I would not be at all surprised if Texas overbid on Jackson. It has been an extremely frustrating off-season for them. Couple that with the team making post-season the last 3 years but falling hard late this year (resulting in their having to play and lose the wild-card game), and human nature is going to be an urgent nature right now.

      It does not make up for losing out on Greinke to the Angels and then losing Hamilton to that same team, and it does not make up for completely missing on Sanchez, but it will sort of feel like it’s an attempt.

      • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

        Texas doesn’t strike me as that kind of team. They know they have plenty to make the postseason again and can add on at the deadline as needed.

        • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

          Kyle, you must be delusional tonight, there’s no way Texas is making the post season the way they are now.

          • kranzman54

            I would bet they still get a wild card. Angels win the division and I gotta believe Rangers are the 1st or 2nd wildcard at worst. Who else gets in ahead of them?

          • bbmoney

            Are we talking about the same Texas Rangers? They’re still pretty good, even sans hamilton.

            • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

              They have lost too many players, they are an injury or two away from a 69 win team, like the Boston Red Sox’s last year

            • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

              Other than Beltre, who is an offensive weapon? Cruz is up and down and hurt too often.

              • King Jeff

                Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus are pretty good. They also have a pretty good amount of close-to-ready talent in Martin, Olt, and Profar. Even if they don’t add a starter, their rotation is pretty good. Also, I think that they still have some money to spend this offseason since they lost Hamilton and missed out on Greinke.

      • kranzman54

        “It does not make up for losing out on Greinke to the Angels and then losing Hamilton to that same team” Pretty sure Greinke and Hamilotn signed in different LAs

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Whoops! Yeah, they lost Wilson to the Angels last year: that and the LA thing must have crossed wires. Still, to lose anything to anyone from California has is really irritating to Texans! :-)

          • kranzman54

            Agreed, losing your best FA to an AL West rival back to back years and watching them sign Pujols has got to hurt.

  • Oswego Chris

    Have always liked Jackson…but, a couple scary things:

    1. Dude will have now been on 25 percent of all MLB teams

    2. He didn’t get better under Dave Duncan…who makes ace pitchers out of sh#+

  • Oswego Chris

    Upon further review…was pretty good under Duncan….so my only concern is the numerous teams

  • Adam

    Signing Jackson to a 4 year, 12/13 million contract doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Rangers…just saying

    • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

      even less sense for the Cubs…just saying

  • North Side Irish

    The Nationals, Phillies, Cubs, Mariners and Rangers are all interested in free agent reliever J.P. Howell, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson.
    Read more at http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2012/12/at-least-five-teams-interested-in-jp-howell.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#KHcftRWu8xUzmFoS.99

    Be a nice veteran addition to the pen…

    • The Dude

      Just from reading the article, it looks like he’s had mixed results since being injured. I know that many fans hate seeing the Cubs go for post-surgery guys but I look at it as a feather in the organization’s cap. When building from the ground up, one thing the Cubs can point to is having the most advanced training staff. That’s nothing to sniff at. I think it’s a true selling point to all FA’s, and something that shows a dedication to winning.

  • Troy

    Rumor mill churning tonight. Cubs along with 5 other teams in on JP Howell. According to Mark Polishuck.

  • Troy

    Polishuk

  • Mike L.

    Wow, the Cubs have really become a substandard team. Reading some of these comments tells me that most of you are nearly in despair…at best. Wasn’t the Epstein/Hoyer generation supposed to bring hope? We’re in huge trouble if the best one of the biggest market teams in all of world sports can do is hope to sign a #5 pitcher.

    • JBarnes

      Shit teams take time to fix…what else you got?

  • kd22

    I’m surprised Nick Swishers name hasn’t come up in connection with the Cubs. He would be a good fit on a 3 year deal to hold down a corner outfield spot until one of the kids is ready. With Rizzo, Soriano, and Swisher hitting 3, 4, 5 you would have a pretty decent middle of the order.

  • DCF

    I’m always wondering if reports/rumors that the Cubs are pursuing player X or made a substantial offer for player Y are really a reflection of actual trade rumors or if they are made up by the Cubs just to drive up the price.
    Last offseason it seemed exactly like that. The actual signings were mostly reported when there was an agreement reached, while the trade chatter who the Cubs where after etc. were mainly BS.

  • Jamess

    The Cubs rotation dosn’t look good on paper for next year. They have one guy who could become a ace in Jeff Samardzija. That’s only if Jeff can go the next step this year. Edwin Jackson is a solid number 4 to 5 in a rotation. I would still look to flip Garza, Baker, and Feldman at the all-star break. There just is to many holes with the Cubs and those three could get them so many good prospects back. My guess the rotation will be after the all-star brake Samardzija,Wood,Vizcaino, and Jackson.

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