It wasn’t long ago that Edwin Jackson was one of the top free agent starting pitchers available. Before long he’ll re-appear on the free agent market, and when he does the Nationals will have to decide whether it’s worth extending him a qualifying offer.
Doing so would allow Washington to obtain draft pick compensation for the right-hander should he sign elsewhere. But it’d also create the possibility of Jackson accepting a one-year contract in the $13MM range.
In some instances the risk (the possibility of a $13MM commitment) isn’t worth the reward (potential draft pick compensation). But in Jackson’s case, a one-year $13MM contract would seem to be a team-friendly deal.
Jackson has a 3.89 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 47.3 % ground ball rate in 173 2/3 innings so far in 2012. Like most Nationals starters, he throws hard (average fastball velocity of 93.5 mph) and generates swings and misses (12.2% swinging strike rate). And though he’s in the midst of his tenth MLB season, he’s still in his prime at 29 years old. Even if the Nationals preferred other candidates for their rotation, Jackson could generate trade interest at that salary.
Last offseason, under baseball’s previous collective bargaining agreement, the Cardinals offered Jackson arbitration, setting themselves up for draft pick compensation in 2012. If the Nationals make Jackson a qualifying offer, no other team will be able to sign him unless they surrender a 2013 draft pick. But there’s not an abundance of quality free agent starting pitching and many of the top pitchers (Zack Greinke excluded) will be linked to draft picks. Jackson, who’s now represented by the Legacy Agency, figures to draw interest either way. What should the Nationals do?