There was a time earlier this year when I was convinced – *convinced* – that if the Cubs had merely waived Edwin Jackson, a number of teams would have gladly picked him and his remaining contract up for free.
I may have been wrong all along, but keep in mind the time period I’m referencing: it was the very beginning of 2014, and back-of-the-rotation arms were becoming pricier and pricier on the free agent market. A 30-year-old like Jackson, who is making just $11 million per year through 2016, and who has definite upside (and an apparent floor as an innings-eating number five) seemed like an obvious grab for other teams. Throw in those great peripherals from 2013, and it was a natch.
I certainly wasn’t advocating the Cubs actually do that, mind you. I was simply illustrating what I perceived to be Jackson’s remaining value.
Flash-forward a few months, and here we stand. Jackson’s peripherals still look good in a very cursory way, but the bad results actually appear grounded in a reality where Jackson cannot consistently command his pitches and is getting hit hard and consistently. Suffice it to say, I no longer think those things that I thought.
Now, if the Cubs did want to move Jackson, they would probably have to eat a healthy chunk of his remaining salary to do it. How much is a guy like Jackson worth, in salary, on the market? To a team willing to roll the dice on the mid-rotation upside, it seems like he’d be worth at least $10 million over the next two years and change. The return to the Cubs on that kind of deal, where they’re eating $15 million or so, mind you, would probably be negligible.
So the question on a Jackson deal right now: is it worth dumping Jackson for $10 or so million in freed up money? Couple that with the open rotation spot that could possibly be used in other ways, and I won’t fight anyone who says yes, pull the trigger. For me? The rest of the money is already spent – it’s a sunk cost. And on a team that is going to need pitching depth next year, I’m not convinced I wouldn’t rather see the Cubs hold onto Jackson, and, at worst, see what he could do out of the bullpen or in a swing role. If the savings escalate beyond $10 million? Or if there’s a relevant prospect/player put on the table? Maybe a savvy bad contract swap? Now you’ve got my ear.
In any case, speaking of the trade side of things, Gordon Wittenmyer reports that scouts were out in force last night to see Jackson (and Diamondbacks disappointment Trevor Cahill), and suggests that the Yankees – who are concededly still desperate for pitching – could be a possible suitor. Bearing in mind that any “return” is going to be focused on how much cash the Cubs could save, I do see a superficial fit there. The Yankees have the need, both this year and in the near-term future, and they’ve got the bankroll to take a risk on a guy with upside like Jackson.
We’ll see if Jackson-related rumors tick up over the coming weeks. Wittenmyer describes the Cubs as “motivated” to deal Jackson, which I could buy, all things considered. If he’s going to be movable, it’s probably going to be this or next month (during the waiver period), and it’s going to require more starts like last night (where Jackson didn’t look all that bad, mediocre results notwithstanding).