Time may be running out on the Cubs and this front office's biggest free agency investment to date.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer made Annibal Sanchez their offseason priority a couple of years ago. They whiffed, regrouped, and went to Plan B in Edwin Jackson.
At the time, some were just happy the Cubs were investing money in an actual premier major-league free-agent. You can count me among those, as I always thought Jackson was at least a reliable inning eating commodity. Not to mention that the arm and stuff has always been so tantalizing to so many clubs.
Unfortunately, many clubs had also figured out that Jackson is a bit of an enigma. He has even been enough of a puzzle to escape the reclamation magic of pitching coaches like Dave Duncan, Don Cooper, and now even Chris Bosio.
His skipper Rick Renteria however, isn't ready to give up just yet on trying to solve that puzzle, he told Gordon Wittenmyer.
“We have to try to put our finger on whatever it is that’s the stumbling block,” manager Rick Renteria said. “[With pitching coach Chris Bosio] and [assistant pitching coach] Lester [Strode] and just in general conversations, we’ll see if we can get to the crux of it with him.”
At some point, maybe soon, the Cubs will have to face the music and swallow hard here. This front office has had to absorb plenty of the previous regime's mistakes, but this time they are staring their own down.
The remaining $22 million over the next two years is a lot to choke down, but if the Cubs plan on being competitive or even respectable next year, it's hard to imagine Jackson as a part of the rotation right now. It is even more of a stretch to imagine the Cubs finding any takers for Jackson this summer.
Our own Gunther Dabynksy wondered aloud if Jackson could be salvaged with a bullpen role. He also gave some more thought as to why EJax has struggled so mightily.
The reason for this loss of effectiveness might be a decreasing gap in velocity between the change and fastball. The fastball velocity has been declining for several seasons with a major drop occurring in 2012 but continuing steadily through this year. The changeup has also increased slightly in velocity to the point where the average gap in velocity is down to 6 mph from the 8 mph in 2011.
Edwin Jackson has tried to compensate for the lack of a changeup by throwing more curveballs than ever in his career, and it is not working. Left-handed bats are torching him for a .906 OPS compared to .700 OPS of right handers. His career numbers against left-handed versus right-handed bats: .787 to .751.
For many, this front office can do no wrong. Some of the fan base or local bloggers may even view them as somewhat infallible. However, even the Cubs front office boy wonders or supporters would admit that Jackson is their biggest mistake so far during their Chicago tenure.
What makes all of this extra difficult is the fact that Jackson from all accounts, is a good clubhouse guy and teammate. I can also add from my experiences, the guy is a class act no matter how he poorly he has pitched.
However, business is business and the Cubs must now be getting to the business of getting better, no matter what that takes. Even if it means eating the money left on the deal or using Jackson in a lesser role.
Jackson (5-11, 5.79 ERA) has only five quality starts in 22 outings. He hasn’t pitched more than 51/3 innings in any of his last four outings and his first inning struggles are becoming painfully predictable.
“It’s been a tough stretch for me lately,” said Jackson, who’s 13-29 with a 5.31 ERA in 53 starts since signing a four-year deal with the Cubs in 2013. “Whatever the case may be, it seems like anything that can happen does happen. It’s even more frustrating when you feel good and nice and strong, and you continue to have outings like this.”
He simply can not continue to have outings like this much longer. If he does, someone should pass the front office the Tabasco sauce.
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