Where did the Cubs go wrong on the Edwin Jackson signing?

There was some interesting talk yesterday on Twitter about Edwin Jackson.  We’re obviously all frustrated with a pitcher we all thought could be a solid, innings eating #3 guy in the rotation.

One thing we all pretty much agreed upon as bloggers, and that is that this front office is going to make mistakes, but you can’t fault their process on this signing.  Jackson was still in him prime years and under 30 years old, he was not attached to a comp pick, and he has had a track record of success, averaging 3.25 WAR over the past 4 seasons.  That’s a solid mid-rotation pitcher and, from a statistical standpoint, there is no reason to expect a decline.

Instead, he went on to have an 8-18 season with a 4.98 ERA.  Still, many of us here had hope it was just a fluke and while we didn’t expect him to anchor the rotation this year, we had at least hoped to see the 200 inning, .500 pitcher with the ERA in the 3.80 range.

The reason for that wasn’t just blind hope, the peripherals were still in line with his career averages.  The FIP was similar to the previous 4 seasons, so there was some reason to think that Jackson has had some amount of bad luck since joining the Cubs.

We have had two posts (one by Adam here and another by guest poster Joe here) analyzing those statistics and concluding that Jackson is a prime candidate to rebound.

It’s sound analysis and Adam’s point was a very basic one:  that when Edwin Jackson doesn’t have his slider working, he is not effective.  While that may not be shocking, it raises an interesting point.

Yesterday, our old writing partner Tom Loxas, now of Cubs Insider, asked if may be that Jackson is not a heady enough pitcher.  At first my response was that heady or not, he has succeeded with his approach in the past.  But it did get me thinking.  Maybe there’s a reason that a well-liked, good guy like Jackson has been passed along from team to team for his entire career.  Maybe there’s a reason two teams that have good reputations for getting the most out of pitchers (the White Sox with Don Cooper and the Cardinals with Dave Duncan) made no attempt to keep him after partial seasons.  Perhaps there was a reason that the Nationals let him go without a comp offer, then basically signed a fading, high risk Dan Haren for the same money.

I started thinking about that mysterious quality we refer to as “pitchability”.

Does Edwin Jackson have it?

I do not know if he does but I can definitely say this:  He never really needed it.  With a consistent mid 90s fastball and a slider that ranged from the mid to upper 80s — who needs pitchability?  Just rear back and dare them to hit those pitches.  When they were on, he could be nearly unhittable — and in fact, they were unhittable for one particular start in July of 2010.

But, going back to Adam’s point, what if those pitches are not working?  And perhaps even more to the point today: What if that stuff is working but just isn’t as dominant as it used to be?

A quick glance at Fangraphs shows that Jackson has shown a steady drop in velocity in his fastball, slider, and curve since 2011.  Considering the first two are his best pitches, it’s a bit concerning.  If Jackson can no longer rear back and beat hitters with just his fastball and/or his slider — is he good enough?  If not, can he adjust?

Pitchers adjust to a drop in their stuff all the time.  Some compensate by improving their command and locating better, but that has not been the case with Jackson — if anything, he has regressed slightly in that respect.  Others develop a new pitch, such as a cutter — or improve on their secondaries as a fallback option.

Without yet seeing Adam’s Pitch F/X analysis, it seemed to me that this is closer to Jackson’s strategy.   He was trying to use his curve more, particularly on LH hitters (who collectively up up an .816 OPS vs. Jackson last year) when he tried to back door the pitch and land it on the outside corner.   He’s also thrown his cutter and his two-seam fastball much more often as a Cub.

It’s a sign that Jackson and the Cubs understand he can’t just get away solely with that fastball/slider combo, but so far he’s struggling to make the adjustment from pure power pitcher to one with a more balanced approach.

So while the combination of track record, age, and lack of comp pick all made sense when it came to the Jackson signing, the Cubs mistake may have been overestimating how quickly Jackson could make those adjustments.  It’s early but we can’t deny that Jackson has been a big disappointment from the start.  The only questions now are can he make the adjustments he needs to continue to be productive?  And if not, what do the Cubs do with an ineffective starter who is due over $30M over the next 3 years?

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    This is essentially parroting JD, but I do have to ask why Jackson was throwing the change to Carpenter in a key situation yesterday when it seems clear the change wasn't working for him yesterday.

    If this was their mistake -- and they could probably tell us what the mistake was -- I hope they've adapted their process so it can't happen again.

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    Obviously, hindsight is 20/20. At the time, I didn't think it was a terrible signing, but I didn't like the timing. Having just lost out on the Sanchez bidding (which would've been a great signing), it seemed like they were settling for Jackson. It's possible they maybe would've signed Jackson either way (I think I read they were going to sign both), but to me it just felt like a desperation signing when they lost out on the guy they really wanted.

  • In reply to brober34:

    I think it was definitely a knee jerk reaction. Theo & Ricketts went to Miami to meet with Anabel, Jed & Sveum traveled to CA to meet with E-Jax... I think he was plan B all along.

  • In reply to brober34:

    I don't know if "settling" is the right word. Any time you are trying to do something that is at least partially beyond your control, you had better have a "plan B" ready in case things don't work out. When the Cubs failed to get Tanaka, they almost immediately signed Hammel. That makes a lot of sense. if you need a pitcher and fail for whatever reason, to get your first choice, you had better have a second choice already on deck.

    In Jackson's case, he hasn't been as good as they had hoped. In Hammel's case, he seems to be about what they thought he was. In neither case was the "plan B" expected to be as good as the "plan A". If he had been, he would have BEEN "plan A".

    Sometimes, you get lucky. The Cubs wanted to trade Dempster for DelGato. They failed to get him, and instead traded Maholm for Vizcaino. It is quite possible that "plan B" will turn out much better than "plan A".

    You win some and you lose some.

    The good FOs win more than they lose, and so far, this FO seems to be a good one.

  • In reply to brober34:

    I, for one, thought it was a terrible signing at the time, both for the length AND for the amount of money. If Jackson got $13mil for just one or two years, I'd have been ok with that...Cubs need a stopgap pitcher. But four years? Even the eternal Cubs optimist that I am rolled my eyes at that brutal signing. No hindsight necessary.

  • I don't pretend to have the answers with E-Jax. I expected a bit of a rebound, and it's early so I still do. But he certainly is not a cerebral pitcher. I don't think he sets up hitters very well.

    So far as the game yesterday, he came out of the blocks looking awesome. He worked with a quick tempo, his pitches were crisp. He got squeezed a bit in the lower part of the zone by the umpire, but so did Wacha... but E-Jax couldn't adjust. Then he gets a base runner and the proverbial wheels just come off. He slows down his tempo, tries to nibble on the corners, can't execute and walks another guy, then serves up a big inning.... It's like deja vu....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    From yesterday's game it appeared to me that he pitched differently when there were runners on base. Maybe that is why he can look dominant at times (albeit very rarely). He's focused when the sacks are cleared.

    Could he be having difficulty pitching out of the stretch? Or is it just a confidence/commanding your pitches issue?

    Regarding the changeup, I think location is less important than deceptability (is that a word?), especially when you can throw in the mid-90's. If it looks like a fastball coming out of his hand, but is 10 MPH slower, that is going to mess with a hitter's timing, no matter where it ends up. So I think he should continue to use it. He needs that to keep batters off balance a little.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Yesterday some of them were coming in at 87-88 though, which is not good when you're throwing 92-93. It's a new pitch and there's a lot to work on, but I think it's key.

  • The fact that no organization made an attempt to sign him was red flag enough for me. At this point I don't think that the Cubs have any choice but to hand him the ball for the rest of the year. I don't see him closing as the 1st inning is always an adventure with Jackson.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    No organization made an attempt to sign Hammel.

    So far, that particular red flag has not been an accurate portent.

  • I really hope his changeup comes along to at least major league average, because with his stuff regressing every year, if it doesn't he's not going to improve. It didn't look good at all yesterday, but it's a new pitch. If he can find a way to improve it, I think it could go a long way to making him a serviceable starter.

  • This hasn't worked out. The Sveum hiring was a blunder.

    Let me say. No GM is going to get everything right. I get that.

    I feel Theo has this rope where it's assumed it's a good move because he did it. The Rizzo trade was looked at a win a year ago. It's still soooo early to judge but now a lot of people would rather have Cashner.

    There's a decent chance the Garza trade bring back 0 major league impact players in 5 years. Grimm is Michael Wuertz to me, a solid 6/7th inning guy. Ramirez doesn't project to have much of an impact. Olt's clock is ticking by the day with the 3rd baseman in the system, Edwards is the wild card, could be a starter, or what a disappointment it becomes if he can't handle a starters workload.

    Vizcaino is an interesting arm, no doubt, but it takes a certain kind of DNA to be a major league closer. He's a big question mark in that regard. Idk if he can move back to starter either.

    My patience is running thin.

    Season ticket holder for 10+ years. I'm able to write it off as a business expense because I take clients from work to games so I'm not complaining about the price. But I know people, good people who can't afford it any more. It's a big loss each year. Something had got to change. Insert Baez into this line-up, it's not like he's going to save anything, this is a really bad team.

    Theo is a great GM. He cements himself into the Hall of Fame with a WS win with the Cubs but at the beginning of Year 3 everything hinges on "they will be good, just wait until the prospects come"

    What happens if the prospects don't pan out? What's Plan B? There isn't one. Ricketts himself said it on 60 minutes sports.

    That doesn't mean sign Pujols/Hamilton, but there's got to be some kind of middle ground. It's not a "sign everyone under the sun" or "do nothing" kind of business.

    Theo was great at taking a team with championship pieces inserted and adding the trimmings. I don't know about rebuilding. It's a different beast.

  • In reply to Nick h:

    I don't believe there are people who still don't get this... If the prospects don't pan out, there will be a second wave , and a third and so on. Banking everything on the few guys you've recently heard of is the old Cub way. Boston, btw, keeps winning WA. He did not just add trimmings. He made that core.

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    I'm sick of this elitist attitude of you're not 100% in with he rebuild you don't get it.

    What happens to the second waves from all the prospects the Royals and Pirates had for the past 20 years?

    I get it. You're just brainwashed.

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    In reply to Nick h:

    "brainwashed" is uncalled for.

    The Pirates weren't really dedicated to building a team until Neal Huntington took over in 2007. They were competitive 5 years later. In part because of excellent early round picks like Pedro Alvarez and Gerrit Cole. Taillon shows why you need a lot of talent, because bad things tend to happen to it.

    The Royals were also competitive last year, but one of the criticisms of Dayton Moore is that he has taken so long to be competitive with early round picks and, then, goes and trades away the best of said picks. Their issue seems to be developing talent, something the Rays, Pirates, and Cardinals are quite good at and Theo is instituting in Chicago.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Saying I don't understand is uncalled for.

  • In reply to Nick h:

    It isn't brainwashing,.... we've not seen this sort of attempt at a rebuild by the Cubs since at least the Green era back in the 1980s.

    There is - indeed - no guarantee that the first, second or even third wave of prospects will get our Cubs to a WS. However - the other - shortcut ways that have been tried didn't produce such an endpoint either. Given - they came really close about a decade ago. Really, really, really close.

    There are no guarantees anywhere in life, or in baseball.

    The attitude you are railing against isn't elitist. Its realistic. AND almost nobody thinks that the waves of prospects are a slam-dunk guarantee.

    Remove the chip from your own shoulder.

  • In reply to Nick h:

    Any GM can do mid-level signings and put together a temporarily competitive team. If that's what you want, there's no reason to fire Jim Hendry. But if what you want is a proven process that can sustain success over a number of years, then you bring on guys like Epstein.

    But it takes patience to build something with a foundation that produces quality year after year. You can't just buy it on the re-sell market. You can buy mid-level FAs and quickly rebuild like the Indians did last year -- but is anyone going to be satisfied with that ceiling? Especially one with no future except to buy more until your payroll becomes too bloated?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You know what any GM in baseball could also do? Have the two worst seasons in franchise history and have a sell off. Put anyone in charge and tell them "Trade away every breathing piece that has trade value" and you're going to get a lot of prospects back with a lot of losses to boot. That process isn't hard, turning those pieces into gold is the hard part.

    They should not be applauded for their efforts until said prospects actually do something. The process could work out but the grade is a major incomplete right now. It's not a success or a failure, it's incomplete. That's not to put Theo on the hot seat, you can't do that with an incomplete grade, and you surely don't want him operating with a Moore like trigger in sabotaging the future but the Royals dealt with similar prospect success not too long ago. Six prospects in the Top 100 and none of them turned reached their potential.

    The words "if Baez/Almora/Bryant pan out" are thrown around so often (same with bounceback seasons from Castro/Rizzo) it's assumed they do. You never read the scenario of them failing. The talk is always, what will the Cubs do with so much surplus? Hopefully the NL has a DH by then for all the talent dripping from the system.

    You can say... but they drafted Bryant!!! The alternative was Jon Gray,
    The #14 prospect in baseball (per MlB.com) compared to #9 for Bryant. That draft is in such early developmental stages (where every player is rated highly because none of them have AA experience where success is make or break) that they're all rated highly.

    Same goes for Almora (#18) with... Fried (#43/#3 LH in baseball), Appel (#17), Heaney (#29/#1 LH), Russell (#12). The only player from the five players picked after Almora that isn't currently rated highly is Dahl, who battled injuries last season. He would have been rated right with them if he didn't get injured and avoided a Courtney Hawkins like season. The other four players are rated just as much as studs as Almora. That speaks more to the "haven't succeeded at AA point" then anything. Every first rounder is looked at a stud a year or two removed from drafts, yes even Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters. Those guys were also oozing with potential too. Look back at the Vitters draft, it's a landfill. The Almora draft will turn into that. Full of failing players and guys who are bench/fringe players who were tabbed as stars. The gold glove potential OF (I love that, anyone with above average defense is gold glove potential, Olt included) who is supposed to man CF for the next decade could just as easily be a 4th OF. People don't like to discuss that though. A very real option. They'd rather petition MLB for a 10 man line-up because the Cubs are going to have so many great hitters. There's no way the Almora draft has that many studs in a row five years from now. It would be unprecedented.

    The Pirates had high draft picks for years and did nothing. Theo's great scouting can't always come in handy. Go back to the Vitters draft for example. Let's say he's so smart he passes on Vitters, there's was not a franchise game changer that would have been taken at #3.

    And I know what people will say "well are they just supposed to sign every high price free agent?" No. Those are completely separate thoughts. I get why they don't do that but to tab the future as some kind of success is wrong. It's a giant incomplete right now. Theo isn't a God but people treat him like King Midas. He already proved a major blunder in hiring Sveum. A guy that has brain-fucked the psyche of our franchise hitter. He gets fired and people were like "Oh...he was just a placeholder anyway." That set the rebuild back a step or two.

    ESPN's power rankings for five years from now came out and the Cubs were in the Top 10 but behind the Cardinals and Pirates. They're a really bad team right now and while it can only get better, it's not like the Cardinals or Pirates have this bleak future. The NL Central will turn into the AL East of years past. A complete dogfight that the Cubs can make it out of but it's not going to be easy, things have to pan out right. The Cardinals and Pirates don't have to cross their fingers and toes as much. They have the producing major league teams with the prospects coming. They are in the position the Cubs want to be in. They can flip a great prospect to two for a midseason pickup and not even blink because they're minor leagues are flowing every bit as much as ours. I laugh at those seeing the Cubs as contenders even next season. You mean the gang of 22 year old rookies is supposed to carry us vs. the battle tested Cards or Pirates.

    This is a proven process? When? When did a team completely abandon the major league team and a wave of prospects and rebuilding carried them to the title?

  • In reply to Nick h:

    We focus on the process of building a team here. We don't take the "I want results and I want them now" approach to analyzing baseball. If that's what you're looking for, you are in the wrong place. There are plenty of other writers out there you can find you see things the way you do. I'm sure you can find them.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I don't think it's a bad analysis Nick, I get what you are saying, but I guess the key would be to state what you would do differently and at what junctures.

    I think the team looks really good this year. They have been in every game minus a couple. I think the platoon system could hold things over until (maybe) one or two of the said prospects maybe come up early and add a win or two.

    And, if we are not in it at the deadline, are you going to criticize Theo (Nick) for trading Hammel or Carlos V or Barney or Shark or maybe even Castro?

    Any any business, you maximize your assets. The reason why many of us like Theo is we feel he has done just that. And, he is aware and cognizant of process, and we know he is striving to improve daily.

    It's not that the other GM's are not, but for me personally, I think Theo is one of the smarter ones and I'm glad him and Jed are heading things.

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    In reply to Nick h:

    You know, I feel like Major said some similar 3 days ago. Wait, it was very similar. Actually, verbatim: http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2014/04/the-more-you-tighten-your-grip-the-more-star-systems-will-slip-through-your-fingers-pirates-5-cubs-4/#comment-127143

  • In reply to Nick h:

    And if it does turn into the AL east and we contend with the cards and pirates? The AL east has sent 3 of the 5 teams to WS in the past ten years, had 6 of 20 WS teams in the past ten years, and 4 championships. If our division turns into that as you say, I'm okay with it.

  • In reply to Nick h:

    If Castro is your "franchise hitter" you got problems. Big ones. A career OPS+ of 96 problems.

  • In reply to Jim Hickman:

    Nobody is saying he's that yet -- and at any rate, Castro is 24. Not sure it's best to judge a guy's career numbers when he's 3 years from his prime.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I understand and agree. Nick's reference to Sveum ruining our "franchise hitter" just go tmy attention.

  • In reply to Jim Hickman:

    Good point John and Jim. Castro is coming into prime. We will discover soon if he is a franchise hitter or not.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You what what ANY GM could also do?

    What Theo is doing.

    Say to any GM "You have complete job security. Trade away anything that is not nailed down."

    And couple that with abandoning the major league system to get high draft picks. And any GM can turn a farm system to a Top 5 system.

  • In reply to Cael:

    Let's not forget that they had to completely re build the entire farm system, scouting departments, communication/technology, etc... We are only 12 games into their 3rd season. Everyone acts like we're 4 years into this, but it's only 2 1/2....

    I understand the frustration... I just understand how anyone thinks it could've been done any quicker w/o sacrificing long term foundation stuff...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    In my opinion this is what a lot of fans are forgetting about. When Theo and crew took over they were basically starting an expansion team without the perks of draft picks. An aging roster, (which was not a good one) and the best players in the minors were Jackson and Vitters.
    What they have accomplished in 2.5 years with the changes made in bargaining agreement is quite impressive. And I get prospects are just prospects until they prove otherwise. But they have brought in a lot of top level talent in 2.5 years. And I bet it hurts them just as much, if not more to watch the ML club finish in the cellar as us die hard cub fans the past two years.
    But I don't think there was an easy way to fix the mess they walked into. If you think otherwise it is just foolish. There was no easy fix. Bringing Castro up too soon, and trading for Garza was Hendrys last answer, how well did that work. Just saying we should give them more than 2.5 years before we stamp them as failed.

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    In reply to Nick h:

    Would a "middle ground" approach be signing a number of solid major league regulars who the front office believe have the talent to be more than that?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Can someone translate that?

  • In reply to Nick h:

    If the prospects do not turn out, this FO will be a failure.

    If the prospects DO turn out, this FO will be a success.

    So far, more of the prospects are about on the track you would expect if they are to be a success.

    The clock is certainly ticking for Olt, but so far, it looks like he is beating the clock. An OPS of almost .800 in your first year is extremely good for a good fielding third baseman.

    Free agent signing Bonifacio is looking like a steal, as it free agent signing Hammel.

    And there are few, if any red flags among the top prospects. Bryant is hitting home runs at about the rate expected and striking out a little less than expected. Almora is doing well in Daytona, and Alcantara is thriving at Iowa. Baez is really the only one off to a slow start, and he did so last year before coming on like gangbusters the rest of the year.

    I agree that a lot of people will probably drop their season tickets in the near future. And they should. And if the team turns around next year as the youngsters begin to reach the big club, they will be the first to sign up on the new waiting list.

  • In reply to Nick h:

    Nick. I agree with you. Lots if hope is on the core four. And currently 2 of 4 are on DL. What is back up plan. You can only sign and flip guys for so long. Also I agree with statement on brainwashed. I have taken approach that theo needs to prove to cub fans and not have respect given to him. I also like points on our trades. We can make a case that all of the trades have been a canceling each other out

  • DL him for brain cramps.

  • EJax stinks when there are runners on. He nibbles incessantly.
    There were two rain delays yesterday... one caused by actual rain and EJax.

  • The salary. That's where they went wrong with the signing. Yes, you are correct. No comp pick attached. Still in his prime. And the decent track record. But for what he was, I still believe he was overpaid. We knew that would happen after losing out on Sanchez, but it's like my buddy says, "you get what you pay for"

  • the signing was puzzling to me at the time. why go out and spend on Jackson when we were pretty much starting our rebuild. didn't make too much sense to me.

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Because they believed they were closer to winning and that they'd have a lot more money to spend. Nobody would have thought that the renovation and additional money from advertising wouldn't be here by now. It's tough, and I thought it was a good signing as in a perfect world, he would have been an innings eater as the young core developed. Even bad teams need innings eaters.

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    Let us be honest, did the Cubs really have a choice here? Looking at the system at the time, I'd say "No." Jackson, warts and all, was worth a flyer at the time. It just hasn't worked out, but what did the Cubs have to lose? It's not like signing him blocked anyone potentially better at the time, and it's doubtful this Cubs FO will allow him to block anyone potentially better, Edwards and Johnson, in the future.

    Jackson has always been an enigma. He's one of those guys whose raw stuff suggests he should be so much more than he actually is, and no one can figure out why, but it is the weakness of many a PBO and GM to believe that their team can be the one to get the very best that raw stuff suggests out of pitchers like him because that kind of raw stuff is just so rare.

    Why a guy with his raw stuff wants to nibble at the corners is beyond me, but I don't believe the problem lies between his right shoulder and the fingertips of his right hand. I firmly believe Jackson's problems lie between his right an left ear.

    My guess is that the Cubs FO didn't go into this blindly. I suspect they knew all this already, but given the state of pitching in the system, they decided there was little to lose but money. Who knows? It might have turned out well, and it might still turn out yet, though probably not.

    I think that some team in the hunt with a less than stellar farm system might find Jackson attractive.down the stretch and roll the dice. The Cubs won't get much for him, unless he starts to pitch well, and they might even have to eat some of the remainder of that contract, but when forced to choose between Kyle Hendricks at league minimum and Jackson for the same results, it's an easy decision. At least Hendricks gives hope of getting better. Where as, the hope of Jackson ever becoming what his raw stuff suggests he should be is fading.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    With all due respect, Michael a 4 year $52M contract is not a "flyer". Jason Hammel at one year and six million is a flyer. Other than that I agree with everything else you said.

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    In reply to Ben20:

    Let us call it a calculated risk then. Jackson's average annual WAR and his raw stuff suggested he was worth the risk to a team that didn't have a whole lot in the way of quality pitching in the cupboard, but make no mistake, they knew it was a gamble that might not pay off because of pitchability issues. The hope was that their people would be able to help him figure things out and help him be more consistently good.

    The sad part is they're kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place with Jackson now. They have to keep him in the rotation. His splits say he's worse as a reliever than as a starter, but then that's because he seems to fall apart with men on base. So he isn't someone you could trust with a lead in the 7th, 8th or 9th inning.

    The only thing to do is to keep sending him out there every 5 days and hope his good starts at least even out his bad starts, which was the story of his career up to the time he came to the Cubs. The one good thing he has going for him is his first half versus second half splits. Historically, he has been a better pitcher in the second half of the season, and this even proved to be true last season.

    The odds get longer every season that he is ever going to be the pitcher his stuff suggests that he should be, but then I think Team Theo knew that going in. They're not ones to be surprised by things. I'm sure they did their homework, looked at what they had in house to put out there in his stead and decided to gamble knowing full well it might not pay off. He simply is what he is, no more and no less.

    The best the Cubs can hope for is that he gets some good starts under his belt going into July and that someone like Hendricks steps up and show he can do at least what Jackson is doing.

    I could see at team like the Yankees, without much in the way of a farm system, needing an arm for the stretch and turning to the Cubs because they won't be able to get anyone better. Their hope would be that, on Jackson's bad days, they can still score enough runs to have a chance to win.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:


  • Rob and his mother die in Season 3 of Game of Thrones. Joffrey Season 4.

  • In reply to Cael:

    Nice try, I'm already caught up. This shows the nature of personality you have, though. Go find another site.

  • In reply to Cael:

    Did all three of those really die? You must not have read the books.

  • You raised an excellent point in there, John about a couple of really terrific pitching coaches seemingly not wanting to keep a guy with his stuff around. Major red flag. I don't fault the FO for making a mistake with the signing. All the circumstances surrounding the signing, which you outlined, made good baseball/business sense to me. The blame goes on Edwin's shoulders for never getting better in his prime years. That's going to absolutely hammer the value of his next contract.

    I've dinged EJax several times since the season started for not having pitchability so I'm not going to hammer him too bad right now. However, not being able to keep your team in the game without your best stuff and getting beat with your third or fourth best pitch in key spots are just two more examples of why he's killing his team. Thirty five percent chance that he lasts the length of his contract with the Cubs in my eyes.

    How about Travis Wood the other day...bases loaded, 1 out....okay, I'm going to strike out McCutcheon and Alvarez to get out of the inning even though I'm supposedly not a bat misser....Pitchability.

    By the way, I think Woody needs a little extension juice. HE'S a guy that looks like he's getting better and he has guts.

  • Imagine a world where every front office was correct on every single prediction. Of course, if they get this down to an exact science, and the game is figured out, the rig is up, the lights are off.

    So, things are as they should be. To fail is to human. For Edwin, for Theo, for anyone. It's those rare successes that people remember you for.

    Can Edwin turn it around? Of course. Will he? That's up for him and the hitters he faces to decide. Remember, that the guys with sticks in their hands, have their careers on the line as well.

    Who wants it more? Who knows.

    I've seen Edwin have a lot of perfect pitches called for balls, and a lot of great pitches dropped somewhere for a lucky hit. Of course, it happens to all pitchers, but maybe Edwin needs a good voodoo doctor to get rid of his curse.

    The stuff is obviously there. :)

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Well said.

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    The biggest mistake, in my opinion, was trying to sign a Jackson or Sanchez so long before the team was ready to win. In essence, if they had signed Sanchez or if Jackson had had a career year it only would have meant drafting a couple spots later (though this might not have hurt them given the depth of this year's draft). Even Theo has admitted they pulled the trigger too soon.

    If they had been closer to winning, I think the mistake would have been settling for Jackson. Sanchez was obviously their first choice so if you don't get him at your price, then move on.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Interesting point. I think if the Cubs were a winning team they would have landed Sanchez.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I see Sanchez had a 6-plus WAR. So maybe if the Cubs have him, with Samardzija, Garza, Wood and Feldman dealing in the first half of the season, the Cubs move a little more aggressively to fix their bullpen issues. But it's still hard to imagine them winning more than 80-85 games, and what then? Does it force you not to tear down that pitching staff? So is it better, then, that they didn't get Sanchez?

    That's a tough one for me. I guess a lot of it will be hindsight after we see what becomes of their draft picks this year and maybe next.

  • Can't believe I'm going to do this but I'm going to anyway. In terms of getting beat with your third and fourth best offerings, ONCE IN A WHILE that responsibility goes on the shoulders of the guy putting down the fingers. Wely's defensive skill set is really good but sometimes he really leaves me scratching my head with the fingers (and that's with all the pitchers, not just Jackson). I think he's a year or two away from excelling at that. If it were me, I would make John Baker Edwin's caddie for the next 5 starts and see if that helps. That's why guys like him and David Ross and Jose Molina have jobs isn't it? Smart fingers.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    I can't believe nobody else has mentioned this until now. Pitch calling and framing is super important. So is confidence. If E-Jax isn't confident in his pitching, could it be that he's not confident in his catcher? Not digging on Welly, but if the Cubs are stuck with 3 more years of E-Jax, they have to look at it from all angles.

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    The problem I had with signing Edwin was always contract length. It had seemed like Edwin was going one year deal to one year deal. It made me nervous to be locked into someone for four years that no one else offered two. I would have been more comfortable with a two year deal with the same price as the first two years of this deal. As for why he gets hit, I think the baserunner thing is a big part. He reaches Trachsel levels of stalling. But also he seems to have a very straight fastball. He doesn't get tons of movement, perhaps why he is trying to lean on cutters or 2 seamers lately.

  • I don't think the Cubs went wrong signing Jackson, it just didn't work out. Every player acquisition is a risk. With all the successes Theo's had on finding guys that should have upside and tapping into that (Maholm, Feldman, Hammel, Schierholtz, Sweeney, Kalish, Bonafacio, ect.), it's inevitable that there's going to be ones that defy logic and flat-out fail. It just so happened (thus far, I still hold out hope for E-Jax) that it's the $52 million dollar deal, and not the $520k ones.

  • What are the expectations here? He is playing on a team that is on track to lose half a thousand games before it turns the corner. Tough to fault a guy, and I put Samardzija in this category, who knows that one mistake could be the difference maker. The offense/defense is not good enough to overcome a couple run deficit.
    He's 30, has a history of being average at best and bounced around between 6 or 7 teams because of it.

    The bigger question is why in the world did they sign anyone to that kind of contract? It's not a terribly bad deal financially by today's standards, but it was totally out of character with every other move this org has made. Even if he suddenly morphed into a Kershaw, he would not have made an appreciable difference with this team. Dumb move and stop blaming Ejax for not living up to unrealistic expections. He's not that good and the contract is not his fault.

  • I think this was a deal the team talked themselves into. They knew they needed pitcher to eat innings and take pressure off of any prospects they worked into the rotation. They couldn't just sign all flip candidates, we all remember post deadline 2 years ago. Someone has to be around to take the ball.

    The problem is they narrowed their focus too much. They limited their own market. The decided they were only going to sign an under 30 year old pitcher to a multiyear deal in the vain hope that the player may still be viable near the end of the contract and be a potential part of the core when they were ready to contend. Since those type of pitchers rarely hit the market (and those that do usually are available for a reason), it basically left them with 2 options to choose from. They tried to serve two masters and ended up failing both.

    Instead they should have looked around and focused on any veteran that could give them 3 solid years of work and provide a good example to youngsters with no regard for whether the guy would have helped beyond that or what his trade value could be. It shouldn't have mattered if the pitcher was 33 or 27. They needed a bridge. Nothing else. Houston rightly made this type of commitment to Feldman this past winter for this purpose. Guys that have been available that could have fit this bill for the Cubs the last couple of years would have been Haren, Guthrie, Colon. In a way Jackson is filling this same role, but they paid him more because there was that slight chance for the light to go on, and the fact that it hasn't has just led to greater fan frustration. Had a guy like Haren or Guthrie struggled like this on a 2-3 year deal, nobody would have blinked.

    The runs at Darvish and Tanaka were justifiable exceptions given their extremely young age for FA since there is a decent chance that those two could have been part of the eventual core when the time came. Outside of those two guys no other pitchers available via FA provided a significant enough chance of being good in 4-5 years that they warranted the effort and expense of a 4+ year contract. They should have just went out with the intention of saying we need a bridge for 3 years, we have some money to burn, lets get the best guy to fill that role for those years.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Sweet post.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    I think Houston will regret the Marty Feldman signing. He and his agent were smart and managed to parlay a career year into $30mil guaranteed. I think that's foolish based on the fact that prior to 2013, he had racked up 5.00+ ERA in four of five seasons. I'm inclined to believe that 2013 was an anomaly, not a new found talent level.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Ha! Marty...made me think of one of my all-time favorite movies, "Young Frankenstein"

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Whether he is bad or not they wn't really regret it. 30 million dollars to Houston (or the Cubs) is basically nothing considering their respective revenues and current payroll commitments. I mean the Cubs basically lit fire to like 5M on Baker last year. That is the one reason I am not overly disappointed in the Jackson signing. I don't like the 4th year, but the money is basically meaningless to me. In some ways he is fulfilling what they needed (a guy to eat innings). What he seems to be a failure in is he isn't really a polished pitcher that can give advice to young guys, but even that is less important given that Bosio seems to be developing into a heck of a pitching coach.

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    the Kyle Lohse - signing is looking pretty solid right now

    Also separate discussion but - I think Rick Hahn is doing a better job at re tooling the White Sox than Jed and Theo.

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    In reply to deport soriano com:

    On what grounds are you arguing that the White Sox are in better shape than the Cubs long term?

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    and what happened to Nick Struck?
    in the dodgers system now?

  • In reply to deport soriano com:

    He was never any good. He was a guy that had 3 average/little below average pitches so he could get lower level guys out fairly regularly, but he couldn't command them well enough and didn't possess an out pitch to get out advanced hitters. He had a slight chance of being a middle reliever but he was never a legit starter prospect.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    And yet just a couple short years ago, Struck, Carpenter, McNutt and Beliveau were the best arms our system had to offer. I like the look of things much better now.

  • I was stunned by this signing. Not that he wasn't worth a shot but because of the size of contract. My concern was just what you wrote:

    "Maybe there's a reason two teams that have good reputations for getting the most out of pitchers (the White Sox with Don Cooper and the Cardinals with Dave Duncan) made no attempt to keep him after partial seasons."

  • Great topic and opinions. I think the Edwin Jackson problem is one of the biggest issues facing the Cubs. It's easy to see why all those team let him go but what do we do with him now. He sucks the life out of his team. If you give him a lead, he promptly gives it back or he just lets the other team bust it open in the 1st inning and we have to play catch up. I hate watching him pitch and I have to think most of his teammates do too. Do we take him out of the rotation? middle relief? Closer? Naw. Just trade him for a case of beer and cut your losses....

  • As some others have pointed out already, one of Jackson's biggest problems is he nibbles too much. That's clear as day.

    The sample size is very small so far but our defense is not doing him any favors either. In his outing against the Cardinals, there were a couple balls hit in play I thought could have been caught and weren't.

    And for a pitcher that likes to nibble, pitch framing will be VERY important. Another great article was written on Fangraphs recently that basically showed Castillo has been the worst in pitch framing so far this season.

    Albeit a small sample size, lets also not overlook Jackson's .396 BABIP with an ERA of 6.19 but a FIP of only 3.83. The other starting pitchers have their BABIP well withing the normal range except for Villanueva.

  • Let's all look on the bright side.
    He's not Milton Bradley!!

  • Couldn't read all the comments, so I'm not sure if someone has mentioned this already, but if he can't rebound from this in the near future, why not move him into a bullpen role?

    The limited number of pitches won't be nearly as big of a hindrance coming out of the pen, and he may even see a little velo spike in that type of role.

    Could be a hell of a closer. And while it's not ideal to pay that kind of money to a reliever, I'd rather pay him to succeed in one role than fail in another.

  • In reply to Juiceboxjerry:

    It's an interesting idea. He could just go FB, slider out of the pen and maybe he gains the velo back in short stints.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    His splits suggest he's worse out of the pen. I think he collapses mentally with runners on base. To me, putting him in the pen would be akin to throwing gasoline on the fire. He simply isn't mentally tough enough to do it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I suggested that way back without a positive response...

  • In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    Well, I'm only saying it's interesting right now -- I still think it's too early to give up on him. I wouldn't actually do it -- not yet, anyway ;)

  • Far too soon to throw in the towel on Jackson. He can still prove to be of value.

  • My two cents worth...

    1. Edwin Jackson stinks. For a guy who is supposed to be a veteran, he has been pitching like a AA starting pitcher. I would rather see a real AA pitcher who is trying to make it to the big leagues. He stinks really bad because my expectations of him, being a multiyear veteran with a multiyear contract is for Jackson to "have a clue" when he is on the mound. He should be leading by example for the youngsters. Wacha out pitched Jackson yesterday. Go figure.

    2. Baseball players & management should be held accountable just like any other employee/employer. If a guy who contributes to the team once every five days, pitches like he has no clue on how to pitch, then people need to stop defending him and/or the people who hired the fellow.

    That's all. Thanks.

  • In reply to GoCubs:

    I don't think this is a defense of Jackson or the front office at all. If you think it is, then you misinterpreted. it was a sound decision based on statistical analysis but my point is that maybe there's more than stats to this case -- and that is the part the Cubs FO may have misjudged.

  • First of all I agree with John that the FO did not go too far out on a limb with signing Jackson to this contract. And it's quite appropriate that we'd debate the merits of the deal on the eve of playing Soriano's Yankees. Many of the same arguments are being made about how bad that contract was and in the end Sori fulfilled his end of the bargain.

    Now I get as frustrated as anyone watching EJax scuffle every game but the fact is FA pitching is expensive and Jackson is providing more value than most people recognize. If the value per WAR is now at $6M, EJax has provided 2.2 WAR to date for a total of $13.2M. In order to break even over the next 3 seasons, Jackson will need to provide a total of 6 WAR (@ a projected average of $6.5M per.) There's a good chance that is achievable.

    Thus far he has an ERA of 6.19 but his FIP is only 3.83... right in line with career norms. And his BABIP against is a very high .396 whereas his career average is only .309. Every ball hit by the Cards managed to find a hole against him.

    EJax has the unfortunate distinction of being the highest paid player on a team that isn't going to sign a popular talent like Shark. Many will blame Jackson's contract for making it tougher to offer JS ace money and I can understand that opinion. And it's not fun seeing EJax and CarVille blow up every other start. But on a cost/benefit basis it's far from the worst contract ever and I'm so grateful Theo hasn't gone after a Pujols or Fielder or Lincecum. The bashing would be non-stop and the flexibility to acquire future talent non-existent.

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    EJax nibbles because he knows his stuff has dropped. Reminds of Howry a few years back.

    You hope someone out performs him and takes his spot. If he goes to the pen there is a chance the reduced workload would tick up the fastball.

    As for mistakes-no business is perfect. This is not a collosial screw up.

    Let's hope they're forced to give Kyle Hendricks a chance.

  • I previously suggested putting Edwin in the stopper role, due to his lack of consistency as a starter. He is not tradable as a starter, perhaps he would thrive in the bullpen...he has some arsenal.

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    In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    I'm not sure id put him in as closer until he finds his way back. I think teams that manage by performance instead of contract are doing it right. Screw trade value right now in my opinion.

  • I believe that the fault goes to the Cubs front office for wishful thinking. I have been very vocal about this disaster of a signing from Day 1. And if he turns it around I will be the first to admit I was wrong. The signing just didn't make sense. This past winter people said Front office didn't want to be tired down to a marginal player. The Edwin signing has been not the normal sign for Theo and company. We have been handing out 1-2 year deals NOT 5 years. I do not understand how a person with 18 losses and a ERA of 4.98 last season can still have a WAR in the 3s. Edwin has been on may too many teams for being relatively young. That should warn people. Also prior to being a Cub he was a .500 pitcher. My point is Edwin has been on a lot of playoff contending teams that have a offense to carry him to .500. Now you put that kind of pitcher on a team that had as has no offense and that is what you get. I would like to see Edwin in a closer role. He has 2 pitches, throws hard, and would only see guys once. If we would have signed him to 12 million less, would that 12 million been enough to get Tanaka?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Jackson was a much more productive player with a longer track record than the 1 year flyers they took. He was considered a top 10 free agent by MLB Trade Rumors, if I remember correctly.

    But it does go to show how much better you can do better with flyers sometimes than mid-level FA signings on multi-year deals.

  • Obviously at this point Edwin has not been what the FO was hoping for. I like what the FO has been doing but paying what they did for Edwin didnt make a whole lot of sense at the time regardless. The length and dollars didnt make a lot of sense, but then again maybe they saw flaws they thought they could fix. Overall I like what they have done but I think they missed on this one.

  • Who's Mark Potash? I just seen him on the Sun-Times make a stink about the Cubs having EJax yesterday and the Cards with Wacha; he also implied Theo goofed by selecting Almora because Wacha is pitching now and AA's ETA is 2017.

    How do some of these writers get their jobs with that sort of reasoning?

  • he is owed 30M now , not 300M keep throwing him out there and see if he gets back to career numbers, if not you adjust him down in the rotation to a 5 , really all that can reallistically be done at this point .

  • John:
    I wish I could have posted sooner. Working keeps getting the way of baseball.

    I think Nick h reflects frustration that I wrote about a fewl months ago, those of the season ticket holders. The postings on this site involve a depth of analysis I cannot endeavor to undertake, they are smart, interesting and the great majority well written by knowledgeable people wanting to see a better Chicago National League Ball Club. I visit this site daily becasue of that. I recognize that this site focuses on player development and the best possible way to build a winning team for the long term, when starting with an organization as flawed as this one was.

    Even in the best organizations, mistakes are made (i.e. EJax), but as the old sying goes, you don't make omlettes without breaking some eggs. The Sabremetric empirical analysis is compelling, and no one is advocating "chuck it now and any sign free agents we can for a .520 season." We want not just one WS, but many.

    But baseball is not played in a vacuum. The fans matter. It bears repeating, I am not in the "blow up the Epstein plan and sign anyone for a headline" camp. However...there is investment in the organization in staffing, there is investment in players, we are waiting for investment in the facility, but there is no investment in the fan's loyalty, e.g. some sort of short-term ticket discount for season ticket holders. Somebody like Nick h, who has spent tens of thousands of dollars in support of the Cubs has some right to vent.

    There is a real a possiblity that "be patient" will pay off this time with Epstoyer. But, if this is a top to bottom rehabilitation of the club, isn't the relationship with their most loyal fans a part of the that? I don't think we should call up Baez now and I am more of a mind the Shark should stay but I am not seeing much of a gesture to the fans that says "you supported the Cubs before, thanks. Hang in there, we have wheel hard over and we moving in a new direction and here is something to reward your loyalty as we endure this process." Back to back 90+ loss seasons and the third highest ticket prices in baseball, that's a tough ticket sometimes.

    It's just a thought.

  • In reply to All W Days:

    I was thinking about the season ticket holders venting. They can do it, it is a free country but I don't think the FO is going to change because of it. The team can't respond to thousands of fan requests. It is not possible plus fans don't know how to best run a baseball organization. If some season ticket holders are not able to afford the price, why did they buy them in the first place? Maybe they should not buy them next time around. There are people on the waiting list who would love the opportunity to buy season tickets. Going to the Kane County games might be a better option for some.

    Just my 2 cents.

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    As soon as Sanchez re-signed with Detroit, I knew Jackson was plan B. On a shorter term deal, I might have liked it. But, I didn't like the years or the money. The only benefit was that it was front-loaded.

    It's still April. Edwin could bounce back. Putting together a dominant stretch could mean we trade him. I wouldn't expect much in return. But an A-ball lottery ticket arm, and opening up a spot in the rotation would be fine with me.
    I'd be happy with a .500 pitcher with an ERA in the low 4-range. What I won't be happy with, is the rest of the team trending in the right direction as their #3 starter loses 18 games again.
    If that's the case, the front office needs to cut their losses and make him a long man in the pen.
    If he's not showing improvement by July, I'd rather give his spot in the rotation to Hendricks.

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    To quote Mr. Murphy from Raw...

    "Eddie. I want a divorce, Eddie."

  • Wow John, the Hoopleheads are out in force today. You want me to have Dan take them out to reconnoiter the rim for ya?

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:


  • Jackson seemed to be a good flier - at least on the surface of it - when he was signed. At times - he's looked like the pitcher 'we' thought 'we' thought we were going to get - other times he's looked BAD.

    And this is the reason that building a team with FAs is just about as unlikely to produce a consistent winner as it is with a prospect base.

    We're barely into year 3 of the Theo rebuild. Pieces of the rebuilt team look very promising. Other pieces - including Jackson - do not look good at all. It happens.

    Let's see how things look come Late May. May still look bad - may look good or at least better.

  • I know this is easy to say after the fact, but I really wanted the Cubs to sign Liriano instead of Jackson at the time. I hope Jackson improves, but I'm not counting on it at this point.

  • Watching Jackson pitch is dreadful, but not as dreadful as the rooftop owners stubbornness. They annoy the heck out of me. Anyway, Jackson will turn it around this year. He cannot simply be this bad for this long, and if he is I guarantee Theo and Jed by the end of the year will have a plan going into next year as what to do with him.

    In addition, when Theo and Jed were hired, they informed us that this was going to be a painful process, but a necessary one. I get every ones frustration because I am just as frustrated with this major league team. However, they said their plan would take 5 years to completely rebuild the minor league system and the major league team. It took them 2 and a half years to completely rebuild the minor league system, so that means they have 2 and a half years to rebuild the major league team. I say they are right on par with their plan, and with what they promised us cubs fan.

    Everybody, take a deep breathe and relax. It's a very frustrating time for the Cubs, but we can all get through this.

  • I couldn't wait for Marmol to be gone. But I'm still rooting for Jackson to turn it around. So what we're seeing is great development from the young core, yet the team is losing two out of three. Seems ideal. Well that's a little glib, but I find this team much more enjoyable than last year's.

  • I don't know, folks. If Jackson is pitching well, doing what he was signed to do, it's "see what finding free agents does - told you so!" - Jackson isn't pitching well and it's "what were they thinking signing this guy?". If anyone on here has the gift of hindsight before the hindsight appears, I want you to help me start a business. We'll be millionaires within months.

  • John,

    Judging by the number of comments to this article, Jackson is a lightning rod for Cubbie fan frustration. The only place the FO spent a lot of money, and the move hurts us in so many ways.
    a)blocking a look at a younger player
    b)money we couild have spent on signing Sarge
    c)a few more wins to those IMPATIENT FANS
    d) deviating from the plan and (so far) falling on your face in a big way.

    Jackson's performance bothers me, but add 6 wins to last year is old news. Add six to this year won't get us very far either.

    But, he sours the taste of the other starters who are doing a decent job. Yet, with Casto and Rizzo off to decent starts, + add in Bonafacio good start, and we're still 4-8., puts a scare into me that we may take yet a bigger step backwards. I think Cub fans ARE STARTING TO WORRY ABOUT THE MASTER PLAN. If the Cubbies lose 105 games(worse than last year), things will get a Lot More Critical.

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