Edwin Jackson Rumors
Theo Epstein admitted that the Cubs "got a little ahead of ourselves" in signing Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52MM contract last winter. In response to a fan's question at a season ticket-holders event in Chicago, Epstein said the team “didn’t fully understand the scope of our situation, the overall situation with the timing of our business plan, the timing of our facilities and the timing of our baseball plan." (hat tip to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times). The Jackson signing was seen a surprise move for the rebuilding Cubs and it hasn't worked out thus far, as Jackson posted a 4.98 ERA over 175 1/3 IP in 2013.
Here are some more items as we head into the weekend...
- Epstein told reporters (including MLB.com's Carrie Muskat) that he expects Jackson to be a positive for the Cubs next season, though he noted that the team plans to add more "quality" starting pitching this winter. "Every starting pitcher we acquire is someone we hope is starting Game 1 of the World Series for us," Epstein said.
- The Indians' biggest needs this winter are bullpen pieces and a complementary bat, Tribe general manager Chris Antonetti tells Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link).
- Scott Boras scoffed at projections that Stephen Drew would only find a three-year contract this winter, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. "A three-year deal, for a 30-year-old free agent, really? Are these writers aware of what Elvis Andrus signed for?", Boras asked. The Andrus comparison isn't as entirely outlandish as it first appears, since Andrus' eight-year, $120MM extension with the Rangers is only guaranteed for four years and $62MM since Andrus has opt-out clauses. Still, even that price tag seems quite high --- MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted Drew for a four-year, $48MM deal this winter and that was with reservations about the fourth year and the draft pick compensation attached to Drew's free agency.
- Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan could be a better catching option for 2014 than Jarrod Saltalamacchia even aside from the financial considerations, Fangraphs' Dave Cameron opines (Twitter links). Hanigan actually has a higher career WAR than Saltalamacchia (8.3 to 6.9) and could be available in a trade, while "Salty" could cost a team around $36MM in free agency.
- The Dodgers should at least consider trading Yasiel Puig, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon argues. He would certainly net more in a deal than any club's higher-priced outfielders and the Dodgers could be selling high on Puig since it's unclear whether his style of play will age well.
- The Angels don't have much payroll room to make big changes for 2014 but MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby thinks the Halos might only need a few tweaks to contend.
- The Tigers aren't likely to re-sign Ramon Santiago, MLive.com's Chris Iott reports, as the team has younger and cheaper utility infield options available. Santiago, 34, has played for Detroit since 2006 and spent 10 seasons overall with the Tigers as a backup or part-time starter in the middle infield.
Here are a few notes from around baseball's Central divisions:
- With the Reds welcoming the division-rival Cubs for a three-game set on the same day that Cincinnati reliever Sean Marshall made another DL trip, Hal McCoy of the Dayton Times looked back on the December 2011 deal between these clubs that put Marshall in the Reds' pen. Travis Wood, the primary piece going to Chicago in that trade, is off to a sparkling start to the year with a 2.24 ERA over 60 1/3 innings. While he has posted a pedestrian 5.8 K/9 to go with 2.8 BB/9, Wood has managed a stellar .928 WHIP this season, good for seventh best among starters, tied with Shelby Miller. (Of course, that mark owes to the lefty's exceedingly low .193 BABIP-against. He sports a career mark of .262; league average currently sits at .292.) Marshall, meanwhile, continues to be effective when he is healthy: he sports an ERA of just over 2.50 over his two seasons in Cincinnati. It is worth noting, as well, that the Reds' rotation is in fine shape thus far without Wood: Cinci starters own the second-best collective ERA in baseball, after the Cardinals.
- Even if the Cubs have played better than their record, the team is looking up in the standings at a host of strong ballclubs. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the club is already feeling the mid-summer trade deadline, though it remains a ways away. Manager Dale Sveum acknowledged that, while the team is still "trying to put things together where you pull off some streaks ... to give yourself a chance to give yourself hope," the team "all know[s] that if we don't, there can be changes." Wittenmyer says that a number of players could be on the trading block, including starters Scott Feldman and Matt Garza, relivers Kevin Gregg and James Russell, and outfielder David DeJesus.
- The Cubs' major offseason acquisition, pitcher Edwin Jackson, has been a disappointment among an otherwise solid rotation. Nevertheless, the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan reports, Jackson is in no danger of losing his starting role. Sveum said that the team is "going to stick with him," in part due to Jackson's four-year, $52MM deal. Said Sveum: "You've got a commitment there and you've got to stick with the commitment."
- Twins first bagger Justin Morneau, a soon-to-be free agent, has not engaged in any extension talks with his team, a source tells Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com. As Morneau finishes off his six-year, $80MM deal with Minnesota, he has failed to restore the power that landed him that contract. Morneau slashed .345/.437/.628 over an injury-shortened 2010 season, but registered a .267/.333/.440 line last year and currently sits at .312/.353/.416 over 190 plate appearances this season.
It's not often that you see a well-regarded starting pitcher (or any well-regarded player, for that matter) appear on eight different teams prior to his 30th birthday, but that's the situation in which Edwin Jackson currently finds himself. Of course, Jackson inked a four-year deal with the Cubs that should give him some stability, but that's not his first stop in Chicago.
Jackson spent parts of two seasons across town as a member of the White Sox rotation from 2010-11. General manager Kenny Williams swung a midseason deal in 2010 that brought a struggling Jackson from the Diamondbacks to the White Sox in exchange for right-hander Daniel Hudson (23 years old at the time) and minor league lefty David Holmberg (18). It's been nearly three years since that trade occurred, so let's take a look at the players involved...
- Edwin Jackson: While he had thrown a no-hitter for the D-backs that season, Jackson was struggling at the time of the trade. He'd posted a 5.16 ERA in in 21 starts but was coming off a solid 2009 campaign and had one and a half years of team control remaining. Jackson turned things around with the South Siders in a big way. His K/9 rate soared from 7.0 to 9.2 while his BB/9 dropped from 4.0 to 2.2. Jackson contributed 1.9 WAR (per Fangraphs) to an 88-win season for the White Sox, but they came up short and finished second in the AL Central. He was terrific in the first half of 2011 as well, posting an even 3.0 WAR before being traded to the Blue Jays (who immediately flipped him to St. Louis) in a deal that netted Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart while also freeing the Sox of the remaining $7.2MM on Mark Teahen's contract.
- Daniel Hudson: Hudson ranked as Chicago's No. 3 prospect, per Baseball America, prior to the 2010 season. He'd struggled in three big league starts that year, but he was a revelation for the Diamondbacks down the stretch. In 11 starts following the trade, Hudson posted a 1.69 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9, cementing his place in Arizona's rotation. He followed up that 2.2 WAR effort with an incredible 4.9-win sophomore campaign for the D-backs, but he was a Tommy John victim after just nine ugly starts in 2012. All told, Hudson has a 3.58 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 347 innings as a Diamondback. He's not yet eligible for arbitration and can be controlled through 2016.
The Minor League Side:
- David Holmberg: At the time of the trade, Holmberg was BA's eighth-ranked White Sox prospect, but he'd struggled to a 4.46 ERA in eight starts in the rookie-level Pioneer League that season. Holmberg has ascended quickly, however, and now ranks as the D-backs' No. 6 prospect according to BA and the No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. BA notes that Holmberg is likely to reach his ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter in the Major Leagues thanks to his plus command and a very strong changeup. His fastball sits 88-91 mph and can touch 93 at times. Mayo notes that while Tyler Skaggs is the lefty who gets all of the buzz in the Diamondbacks' system, Holmberg "isn't that far behind him." Holmberg reached Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2012 and made 15 solid starts. Now 21 years of age, he's opened the 2013 season at the same level and sports a 3.10 ERA 6.3 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 151 career Double-A innings.
Three years later, it looks like the Diamondbacks got a very good return for a talented but struggling starter. It's conceivable that within the next two seasons, 40 percent of Arizona's rotation will consist of the two players they received in this deal. Jerry Dipoto, the D-backs' GM at the time of the trade (he's now GM of the Angels), did well to secure a pair of prospects who ranked in Chicago's Top 10.
The price Chicago paid doesn't seem crazy either, given Jackson's terrific results with the White Sox. Jackson gave them 4.9 wins above replacement, but most fans will look back on this trade in a negative light due to the lack of return for Jackson when they traded him a year later. That's a fair criticism (and also a trade for another post), but Jackson was every bit the pitcher the White Sox were hoping he'd be when they acquired him. This would probably go down as a win-win had the Sox contended in 2011 or made the playoffs in 2010.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Roy Halladay's season (and Phillies tenure) could be ended by his upcoming shoulder surgery, and the veteran right-hander took it upon himself to apologize to Phillie fans before Friday's game. "You feel an obligation to the organization, to your teammates, to the fans to try to go out and pitch. Especially on a competitive team that sells out. For me, that was a big factor," Halladay told reporters (including Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer). Halladay hopes to return to the mound in three months though it remains to been how the 36-year-old will respond to the surgery.
Here's the latest from around the division...
- The Marlins' policy against no-trade clauses isn't an insurmountable obstacle to the team's business, opines agent Scott Boras. "I think the no trade policy does affect franchise players. But the number of franchise players in free agency are pretty rare," Boras told reporters (including Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald). "The Marlins in my mind you've got a number of players who like the geographical dynamic of what Miami offers. You've got a footprint now. It's not a wish and a hope."
- The Marlins' injury problems have forced the team to promote prospects like Jose Fernandez, Derek Dietrich and Marcell Ozuna to the Major Leagues earlier than expected, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro writes. "I don't know if it messes up the plan," president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "You've got to do what you've got to do....Right now, we're so buckled by the amount of injuries to key players. I don't know if we've taken a step back to say, 'OK, is this going to mess up the master plan?' We're trying to make sure Red [manager Mike Redmond] has 25 guys every day, which has been tough."
- Edwin Jackson picked up his first win of the season in the Cubs' 8-2 victory over the Nationals today. Jackson told James Wagner of the Washington Post that he was interested in returning to the Nats last year but the team passed on negotiations after he turned down their one-year qualifying offer. Jackson ended up finding long-term security in the form of a four-year, $52MM deal with the Cubs.
- With Brian McCann back from the DL and Evan Gattis hitting well, the Braves could look to trade catcher Gerald Laird, speculates MLB.com's Mark Bowman. Since this could be McCann's last season in Atlanta, however, Bowman thinks the Braves will keep Laird as a veteran mentor to Gattis in 2014.
- Some other items about the Phillies, Nationals and Mets were covered earlier today by MLBTR's Jeff Todd in an edition of National League Notes.
The Cubs are 12-20 on the season, good for the second-worst record in the National League. On the plus side, four of their five starting pitchers have performed well, and the team has shown surprising power in the early going. The latest on the North Siders:
- Scott Feldman is a name to keep in mind leading up to the trade deadline and in free agency after the season, writes ESPN's Buster Olney, after the 30-year-old pitched seven strong innings to defeat his former Rangers teammates last night. Feldman has a 2.70 ERA through his first six starts, but should his peripheral stats remain steady, SIERA suggests something around 4.30 would be a better bet moving forward.
- The Cubs have not missed a start from college righties Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray, but they have expanded their search beyond those two, GM Jed Hoyer told Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM yesterday. The Cubs draft second overall next month, and despite Hoyer's lip service, they're widely expected to take Appel or Gray after the Astros pick.
- Asked by reporters why reliever Carlos Marmol continues to get chances, Hoyer instead offered that Marmol has been "ridden hard by a number of managers here" as an explanation for the former closer's struggles (via Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com). Given his $9.8MM guaranteed salary, the Cubs are presumably reluctant to release Marmol.
- Asked whether $52MM man Edwin Jackson is a candidate for the bullpen when Matt Garza returns, Hoyer ducked the question, noting that surplus starting pitching "always seems to take care of itself and we're a ways away from having to deal with that kind of issue." Rogers feels that allowing Jackson to stay in the rotation due to his contract, at the expense of a better-performing starter, sends a poor message to the team. I wonder, though, what kind of message would be sent to future free agents if the Cubs make a large four-year commitment to a pitcher and demote him to the bullpen after fewer than ten starts. Regarding Hoyer's comment, the Cubs are really only two healthy weeks away from having to deal with the rotation surplus, as Garza should be ready to return after two more rehab starts.
- "An apparent lack of commitment" is behind Ian Stewart taking his allowed 72 hours to report to the Cubs' Triple-A Iowa team on his optional assignment, since Stewart had already been playing with the club on his rehab assignment, opines Rogers. Stewart, earning $2MM this year, recently finished rehabbing a left quad injury. UPDATE: Stewart did report back with Iowa yesterday, tweets Rogers.
- Padres third baseman Chase Headley "would be perfect for the Cubs," suggests Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Cubs have three premium position player prospects in Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Jorge Soler, and for me it's difficult to picture a Headley trade without one of them and equally difficult to imagine Hoyer and Theo Epstein parting with one during a non-contending season.
Earlier today, the Indians granted Ben Francisco his unconditional release and added Rich Hill to the 40-man roster, meaning Hill is likely to break camp as a member of the Tribe's bullpen in the mind of MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. Here's some more on the Indians and other Central division teams...
- Indians non-roster invitee Scott Kazmir feels that he's pitched well enough to earn the team's fifth starter role, according to Cleveland.com's Glenn Moore (link includes video interview with Kazmir). The 29-year-old Kazmir has pitched in just one game since 2010 but told reporters that each time he was released allowed him to step back and examine what he needed to improve on to get back to his previous levels. Bastian tweets that between the Cactus League and "B" games, Kazmir has fired 11 scoreless innings with a 13-to-2 K/BB ratio.
- J.J. Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com writes that the trade to the White Sox was a turning point in the career of Edwin Jackson, who benefited from pitching coach Don Cooper's tutelage. Jackson tells Stankevitz that he isn't fazed by the fact that the Cubs will be his seventh team since 2008. He's likely to keep that uniform for awhile, having signed a four-year, $52MM contract this offseason.
- The money to be saved by delaying Aaron Hicks' service time is the "only justifiable reason" to keep him from opening the season as the Twins' center fielder in the eyes of 1500 ESPN's Phil Mackey. In a separate piece, Mackey notes that Darin Mastroianni is still pushing for the job, and manager Ron Gardenhire says no decision has been reached. Our own Ben Nicholson-Smith examined the service time considerations for Hicks and other members of Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list late last month.
- David Price recently said he’d be hesitant to sign a long-term deal with the Yankees because of their facial hair policy. However, the left-hander said today that he wouldn’t rule out playing for New York at some point, Newsday’s David Lennon reports (Twitter links). No doubt realizing his leverage will increase if the Yankees are interested, Price said he might not even have a beard by the time he hits free agency.
- The Tigers haven’t considered re-signing Jose Valverde for a moment, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News reports (on Twitter). The reliever will have the chance to boost his free agent stock in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
- Edwin Jackson, one of the top free agent pitchers of the 2012-13 offseason, said his choice came down to the Cubs and Indians, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reports. The Indians were aggressive in free agency this winter, signing Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn while pursuing others such as Jackson. The right-hander pitched on a one-year deal in 2012 and is pleased to have signed a multiyear deal this time. “It’s always a good feeling to have security," he said.
The Diamondbacks had insisted on receiving Major League-ready talent in any trade for Justin Upton, but were willing to accept prospects in last week's proposed deal with the Mariners that Upton blocked with his no-trade clause. D'Backs GM Kevin Towers tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that the change in philosophy was due to the rising cost of free agents and the fact that the Snakes had added outfield depth in Cody Ross.
"It’s easier to do more of a prospect-driven deal than before. To me, it would have to be the right prospects," Towers said. "We’re targeting people’s best prospects and upper-level guys that we think are close -- if not (major league-ready) this year, then next year.”
Some more news from around baseball...
- The Diamondbacks seem intent on trading Upton, leaving MLB.com's Matthew Leach puzzled at why the club would move a talented young player on a controllable contract.
- The Mets haven't given up on the possibility of offering Brian Wilson a Major League contract, reports Newsday's Marc Carig (Twitter link). We heard earlier today that the Mets were unimpressed when they watched Wilson throw over the weekend.
- The Braves have one of the least-profitable TV deals in baseball but team CEO Terry McGuirk says that low broadcasting revenues aren't hampering how the club does business, McGuirk tells David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Braves have 14 years left on their current TV deal, which McGuirk describes as “iron-clad."
- Athletics GM Billy Beane said it was difficult to move a highly-regarded pitching prospect like A.J. Cole, CSN Bay Area's Casey Pratt reports. However, the GM said it had to be done to help the A's contend in 2013. "We're shifting all of our focus on the Major League club and trying to take as much advantage as we can of the opportunity we have," Beane said.
- Beane said he prepared to go with a platoon of Derek Norris and George Kottaras behind the plate, MLB.com's Jane Lee reports (Twitter links). "Only if it was John Jaso" would he have made a move to improve Oakland's catching. Beane said he had been trying to acquire Jaso from the Mariners over the last couple of months.
- Buster Posey tops the list of baseball's best 25-year-old players, according to ESPN's Keith Law (ESPN Insider subscription req'd).
- Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters (including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune) that Edwin Jackson's age and track record made the team comfortable enough to sign him to a big free agent contract.
- In another item from Sullivan, Epstein said that he expects the Cubs to contend in 2013 despite the fact that they're still ostensibly rebuilding. "Otherwise, there’s no reason to show up or build a team,” Epstein said. “It’s postseason or bust every year. That’s what our goal is."
The Cubs finalized the largest free agent deal of the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer regime today, a four-year, $52MM contract for 29-year-old righty Edwin Jackson. The expenditure was the sixth-largest for any free agent this year, and the team's parallel pursuits of Jackson and Anibal Sanchez surprised those who thought the club would again tread lightly in free agency as part of a long-term rebuilding plan. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer explained the rationale behind the signing with his opening remarks at Jackson's press conference:
"He pitched all of last year at 28 years old, he's been incredibly durable, had some really excellent seasons during his time in the big leagues, and we actually think his best days are ahead of him. He fits very well on the team in 2013, but we think he fits even better going forward as a core member of what we're trying to build here in Chicago. His talent, his age, and everything we learned about him as a teammate were all reasons we were excited to add him to the roster, and we're excited to go forward with Edwin as a big part of our club." Hoyer made it clear that every individual season is "precious," and they're trying to build a winner every year.
Having played for seven teams in his career, Jackson has found some measure of stability with the four-year deal. He told reporters, "It definitely feels great. I think the most assuring part is that you have the chance to relax and know that you're going to be somewhere for a while and you don't have to feel like you have to prove yourself every year. I think it's definitely going to help to just go out and have fun and not have to worry about anything else." Jackson will finalize another long-term deal on Saturday, as he and fiancée Erika Zanders will be tying the knot.
Jackson had an explanation as to why he's played for so many teams, saying with a smile, "I think everyone likes me." He never saw the movement as a negative; instead, all the trades made him feel wanted. Hoyer offered another theory, noting, "a lot of his recent stops have been due to the inability to sign him to an extension." Prior to this contract, Jackson had only signed one multiyear deal, a two-year pact covering only his final arbitration years. Not coincidentally, Jackson was represented by the Boras Corporation for his previous contracts, an agency he dropped last summer for Legacy Sports Group. Jackson preferred not to comment on his reason for leaving Boras, saying only that he had "no hard feelings." Boras pushed Jackson to take a one-year, $11MM deal with the Nationals last February rather than a reported three-year offer in the $30MM range from the Pirates, a decision that ultimately paid off when the Cubs opened their checkbook.
The Cubs have officially signed Edwin Jackson, the team announced. It's a four-year contract worth $52MM, and it does not include a no-trade clause. Jackson is a Legacy Sports Group client.
The Cubs have worked exceptionally aggressively to add free agent starting pitching this offseason. They already signed Scott Feldman, Scott Baker and Carlos Villanueva to join a rotation led by Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. Travis Wood also has considerable experience starting, but he might now project as a reliever.
None of the Cubs' additions will cost the team a future draft pick. The Nationals declined to make Jackson a qualifying offer after the season, which means he wasn’t linked to draft pick compensation. As MLBTR's Transaction Tracker shows, Jackson's deal represents the largest free agent contract the Cubs have agreed to under GM Jed Hoyer.
Jackson joins his eighth MLB team and his seventh club since 2008. The 29-year-old spent the 2012 season with the Nationals, posting a 4.03 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 47.3% ground ball rate in 189 2/3 regular season innings. He reached the 180-inning plateau for the fifth consecutive season with an average fastball velocity of 93.5 mph.
Jackson joined Legacy Sports in July, leaving the Boras Corporation. Last winter Jackson obtained a one-year, $11MM contract to play in Washington. One year later, the Indians, Rangers and Padres were among the teams with interest in Jackson.
Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com first reported the agreement while Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com added details (Twitter links). Mike Axisa contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.