It was an exciting time when the Chicago Cubs signed Edwin Jackson in December 2012. No, he wasn’t Anibal Sanchez – indeed, he seemed to be the fallback after the Cubs failed to get Sanchez – but he had been a steadily good middle-of-the-rotation arm, with tantalizing (but never reached) upside, and he was just 28. A four-year, $52 million deal didn’t seem like too much to give up for that guy. Although the group of folks who will say they were opposed to the deal back then will be larger today than it actually was at the time, most were into the deal. Steady, solid, good.
And, for the entirety of the 2013 season, I fought against the notion that Jackson was as bad as his baseball card stats said he was. The 4.98 ERA was ugly, but his 3.79 FIP and 3.86 xFIP (as just two examples) were more or less in line with his average marks to that point in time, so it was clearly just a fluke, right?
I won’t get into it, because it doesn’t go anywhere good.
I’ll forever remember Jackson’s 2013 season as a lesson in not over-relying on advanced statistics. Sometimes, you’ve got to trust your eyes – or at least give them a little credit. As 2014 confirmed, there was just something about Jackson that made him oh-so-hittable, especially at the times when it would burn the worst.
It stunk for the Cubs, and it stunk for Jackson, who was, by all accounts, a great teammate, a hard worker, and a good person. A mid-90s fastball and a strikeout slider … he should have been so much better.
I was wrong. The front office was wrong. Jackson’s deal was a mistake. Maybe it was a well-informed, properly-calculated mistake, but a mistake nonetheless.
In a game like this, that will happen sometimes. And, while I can’t speak for the front office, I can say that the entire experience gave me a new window into some pitcher performance and contract analysis issues where I was lacking. I guess that’s something.
As for Jackson, the ill-fated signing has come full circle, and he’s now been released. Jackson was designated for assignment last week, but there was no last minute trade – saving a few dollars – to be had. Jackson, still just 31 and with a big arm, is free to sign with any team. If he makes the big leagues this and/or next year, the Cubs will save the pro-rated portion of the Major League minimum.
But the vast majority of the $11 million the Cubs owe Jackson for 2016 will remain on the books, reminding me of my wrong-thinking every time I check the payroll next season.
Best of luck to Jackson, wherever he winds up.
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