Edwin Jackson and the Chicago Cubs...this makes as much sense as the marriage of Heidi Klum and Seal. Spending $52 million dollars on a veteran whose best years are behind him doesn’t seem like a logical step in the Theo “master plan.” Signing Edwin Jackson means one of two things: the Cubs feel they are ready to complete in a weak NL Central, or Theo’s succumbing to the pressure of being the general manager of the Chicago Cubs.
When Edwin Jackson came up with the Dodgers nearly 10 years ago, this was a “can’t miss” type prospect. He had a blazing fastball and his stuff was electric. He was your classic power pitcher who featured a great fastball and a power slider. If he could just harness that ability and consistently throw strikes, the sky was the limit. 10 years later, Jackson now has over 1,200 innings on his arm and still has the same control problems. His velocity has seen dips over the past few years and will never be a top of the rotation guy.
Jackson does have some qualities though that do make him an attractive pickup for the Cubs. He’s had over 10 wins in each of the last four seasons and he’s an innings eater. The Cubs feature several pitchers on their staff who struggle to get through six innings. Jackson can take the ball for the Cubs every fifth day and give them 7-8 consistent innings, saving the bullpen. Every successful staff has one of those.
The other positive is his ground ball to fly ball ratio. Over the past three years, Jackson’s numbers have been 1.55, 1.44, and 1.32. While the number has been decreasing, it’s still over a one, which he struggled to do earlier in his career. When Jackson came up, he was predominantly a fly ball pitcher. He’s since been getting more ground balls which is much needed at Wrigley Field with the wind and short fences. His career .500 record is alarming since he’s pitched for a lot of good teams, but pitchers can’t always control wins and losses.
On the outside, this makes sense for a team ready to compete. The Cubs will go into next year with a rotation made up of Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, and Scott Baker/Scott Feldman. One through five, that’s a pretty solid rotation on paper. One problem though, the Cubs aren’t ready to complete. Not to mention the flaws all over the diamond, the bullpen is one of the worst in the National League. In 2012, the pen ranked 27th in baseball with a 4.49 ERA. You win with starting pitching in the playoffs, but if you don’t have a bullpen to get you there, it doesn’t matter. The Cubs have done little to address the bullpen woes from last season.
This leads to the big question, does Theo Epstein think the Cubs are ready to complete? If he feels they can make a push and accelerate the clock in the rebuilding plan, he better add a few more players. This team needs at least one more stick in the lineup and some quality arms out of the pen. It would make sense for the Cubs to sign veterans like Grady Sizemore and Brett Myers. Both guys are low risk high reward players who could fill major holes. When you play in a hitter friendly park, you have to have an offense that can complete, and this team doesn’t.
If Theo made this move to please Cub fans by spending money for a named free agent, then shame on him. The Cubs fans have been waiting for over 100 years to see a World Series Champion. I’m sure they could sit through a few more years of bad baseball if it meant the organization was closer winning a championship. Every general manager that has preceded Theo has felt the “Cub pressure” after a few years and started making horrible decisions with intent on winning now. Theo came in with a plan that would take 3-5 years to rebuild the organization. There is no need to blow that plan up now just to make a few Cub fans happy.
Edwin Jackson could end up being a solid pitcher for the Cubs next season, but a 4 year $52 million dollar contract is a mistake. It locks him up for at least the next 2-3 years with a trade very unlikely. Just like the Heidi Klum and Seal marriage, it lasted a few years with everyone scratching their head. Lets hope this marriage doesn’t end up as ugly as that one.