Edwin Jackson and the Cubs, after days of flirting and exchanging cleverly-disguised notes back and forth, have finally announced they’ll be attending the 2013 spring mixer together. Jackson and the Cubs joined hands with a four-year, $52 million contract (no-trade clause included) serving as the matchmaker. The 2013 season will be the 11th of Jackson’s mixed career, and he’ll be spending it with his eighth team. Despite the track record of constant relocation, Jackson has actually been both an effective starting pitcher and a guy who has avoided public personal controversy. It’s honestly a bit puzzling he hasn’t managed to stick anywhere.
Jackson’s one-year deal with the Nationals mostly worked out fine for everyone involved, as he posted a 4.03 ERA, 3.85 FIP, and 3.79 xFIP en route to building up 2.7 WAR of value last season. He also posted the highest strikeout rate (7.97/9) and lowest walk rate (2.75 BB/9) as a resident of the nation’s capitol. In fact, Jackson has been on something of an unnoticed roll for the last four seasons. From 2009-2012, he has never logged fewer innings than the 189 2/3 he pitched last season, and he’s never been worth less than that 2.7 WAR mark. Still only 29 until next September, Jackson may just be better than any of us typically give him credit for.
Given his performance over the last half-decade, I’m fairly comfortable in saying that Jackson has a good shot to earn this contract or at least come close. Any more, that seems to be about all you can ask of a pitcher when you obtain him from this completely bloated free agent market. Jackson is the kind of guy who can be plugged right into the middle of the rotation, take care of his innings, occasionally dominate, and occasionally frustrate. The overall package is an excellent three starter, and he’ll be a decent-enough building block for the Cubs if that’s the direction the team chooses to pursue.
It may have to be the direction the Cubs pursue, as the no-trade clause present in Jackson’s contract could conceivably keep the team from tossing Jackson somewhere else before the July trading deadline. We don’t know all of the details of the clause yet, and we probably won’t unless a practical event causes them to be pursued, but chances ar Jackson will at least be able to block trades to a few different organizations. Should the Cubs look to move him later, he may be fine ending up on a contender, but he may also want to stay put in a cool city that also happens to be the same city he’s been in for longer than two seconds. Only time will tell!