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Free Agencies Separated At Birth: Jackson & Schmidt

It is fairly astonishing that we are entering the month when teams report for Spring Training, and Edwin Jackson remains as homeless as Thomas Jane in Arrested Development.

This is particularly true when we compare Jackson's free agency to the one enjoyed ten offseasons ago by Jason Schmidt. The year was 2001. The Diamondbacks had just beaten the Yankees in the World Series. George Harrison died. Anthrax was in the air.

But none of that stopped Jason Schmidt. The righty, about to enter his age-29 season, had put up an ERA+ of 107 while pitching for two teams. For his career, his ERA+ stood at 99, with career walk rate of 3.8 per nine innings and a strikeout rate of 6.9 per nine innings. He was rewarded with a five-year, $41MM contract from San Francisco.

Fast forward ten years, and look at Edwin Jackson. The righty, about to enter his age-29 season, has just put up an ERA+ of 106 while pitching for two teams. For his career, his ERA+ stands at 97, with a walk rate of 3.7 per nine innings and a strikeout rate of 6.7 per nine innings. And he can't find a job.

If Schmidt is any indication, today's teams are missing an opportunity for a bargain. Over his next five seasons, Schmidt pitched just over 1,000 innings at an ERA+ of 127. He made three All Star teams, finished in the top four of Cy Young voting twice, won an ERA title in 2003, and reduced his walks to 3.2 per nine while elevating his strikeouts to 9.0 per nine. He was well worth that $41MM investment.

Chances are good that Jackson won't approach Schmidt's contract length, and his annual salary could dip below Schmidt's as well, even adjusting for the decade that has passed. Why? Teams fear getting stuck with the other Schmidt deal -- the three-year, $47MM contract he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 2007 season. For that money, Los Angeles received 43 1/3 innings of 6.02 ERA pitching.

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