Cubs and Edwin Jackson a Real Head Scratcher

Cubs and Edwin Jackson a Real Head Scratcher

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.

Filed under: Chicago Cubs, Cubs

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  • That's what I figured, but all the other bloggers seem to think that the signings are good. I don't see it for this amount of money.

    "If Theo made this move to please Cub fans by spending money for a named free agent..." seems close to what some said on sports radio that Ricketts offered to open his pocketbook because Cubs fans weren't going to show up for a season like last one. However, the other talk was like "can they now trade Garza?"

  • 52 mil for a guy who bounces from team to team? Is Theo on something?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I dont think pitchers who bounce around are bad look at the teams Jackson has been with they were in the race it was not like he was bouncing around to teams that stink

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Check this out he has been with Rays, Nationals, Tigers, Rays again and the white sox not a collection of bottom feeeders

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    You mean a guy that lots of teams want?

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    This is a terrible article. The 52 million is a perfect price. Have any of you seen the market for a pitcher lately? Also, the cubs are not ready to compete. With the cubs about of money what is 4 years 52 million.....nothing. They can also trade him. Jackson while has bounced from team to team is not a problem in the lockerroom. So of you fans who think hes bad from bouncing team to team are the ones on something. Back to the article. 29 years old and best days behind him? Pretty sure hes coming into his prime. I didnt know careers end at 29. Especially since he has a good contract he has peace of ind for a breakout season. Terrible article.

  • In reply to Zack Jacobs:

    You must be his agent.

  • In reply to Zack Jacobs:

    Just turned 29 in fact is entering into a pitcher's prime years. As far a salary, they are paying him about what they were paying Dempster last year.
    Solid pick-up and he is much less risky than the years and money to get Grienke or Sanchez.

  • In reply to Zack Jacobs:

    I agree completely. This was a solid pickup. I would have preferred 1 year less on the length, but losing 103 games makes you overpay a bit.

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  • It appears that some of you and your comments did not watch many of the Cubs games. Why I say that the pitching was horrible and Jackson is a far better pitcher than all but 2 of the Cub pitchers we had on the team this past season. With Garza and Smarj plus Jackson we have a stable staff. Also we have the Tommy John boys that if their arms are right we will have a much better staff than we have in the last 2-3 years

  • In reply to BullySixChicago:

    But most figure it doesn't make any difference if the 8 on the field, plus the bullpen, give the same type of performance they did last year.

    And I doubt the Cubs have a stable staff if the first word was that Garza could be traded for prospects, Jackson doesn't have a no trade in his contract (reported, as I haven't seen it), and you can't even name the other 3 starters the Cubs supposedly have.

  • The key here is the four years. The Cubs don't expect to compete in 2013, but they DO expect to field a team by 2014 and especially get going by 15-16. If you want a veteran pitcher or two on any of those teams (def don't want ALL young guys, gotta get a few young, established players where you can), the time to start buying is now, as the market is thin next year for SPs and teams will be forced to pay/trade the farm for seriously mediocre. This salary will look like a steal in a year or two. Just look at what Grienke's getting now. And Annibal Sanchez.

    As far as Edwin himself goes. He's obviously a second choice to Annibal Sanchez (who's agent played everybody and should be blacklisted), but his peripherals aren't completely dissimilar. The hope is that stability in a home plus consistent coaching plus DEFENSE can fix his control issue. And eat some innings. That right there improves your bullpen.

    If none of this works out, the Cubs have signed enough pitchers to buy low/build value deals that they have a lot of options to flip for major prospects at deadlines, and, all the while, not suffering another 100-loss team during this rebuild. Build on. Build off. This is all win-win-win to me.

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    And the money. They have it.

  • The Jackson signing is "interesting." I don't view it as an investment in the present major league roster so much as another signing intended to be turned into more young players between this year's trading deadline or next off-season at latest. Jackson is a No. 3 pitcher at best, and the odds aren't great he'll be worth $11 million in year 3 or 4 of this contract (even accounting for salary appreciation). It seems to me the Cubs "over-paid" him that $8 million signing bonus simply for the right to flip him for prospects from from a contending team - provided Jackson stays healthy and stays the pitcher he has been recently (which is where the real risk is for the Cubs).

    Contending teams were probably willing to give Jackson 3 or 4 years at $11M per as the Cubs did, but not also the $8M signing bonus. So the Jackson signing bonus is almost like the "posting bid" paid to Japanese teams to negotiate with their top players. But come the 2013 or 2014 trade deadline, a few of these teams will certainly overpay with prospects to get a dependable major-league starter and without having to pay any of the signing bonus. Of course, the Cubs would have preferred to use the $8M signing bonus to outbid directly for prospects, but that's not possible any more. So this is the next best thing: overpay for a free agent to exchange for the prospects.

    This reflects the fact that the Cubs' biggest advantage at the moment is being payroll rich but prospect poor (especially at the mid- and upper minor league level). What they really want is have a prospect-rich farm system to create a young, cheaper core for the major league roster and use the rest of the prospect pipeline to fill in the major-league roster with quality veterans other teams can't afford to keep (much like Toronto did this off season). So how do you convert their payroll advantage into a prospect advantage? You can't overslot in the draft any more and Latin signing bonuses have been reigned in. That leaves overpaying for Asian players and overpaying for free agents who can be flipped for young arms. It doesn't help win-now fans, but it is very much in kind with Theo/Jed's strategy for building a team that in the near future can compete each year.

    NOTE: This also applied to the Sanchez offer and is also why Theo/Jed are eager to eat most of the Soriano contract. Just an alternative way to "buy" prospects by leveraging the Cubs excess payroll advantage today.

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