The Edwin Jackson trade possibility

Stealing Wins: The 2010 Yankees & Baserunning
The 2010 Yankees & Inherited Runners
(Paul Beaty/AP)

As we weather the final three months before Opening Day, we’ll spend most of our time talking about pitching. Everywhere else the Yankees are decently set, and where they’re not set they have options. With the pitching staff the options aren’t immediately clear. What is clear is that no one is satisfied with Sergio Mitre. I imagine, then, that until the Yankees clear up the back end of the rotation that it will dominate our conversation.

In early December MLB Trade Rumors ran a poll asking where Rafael Soriano would land. Of the teams listed, the Angels got the most votes, but that doesn’t appear to be a strong possibility at all. They already signed Scott Downs and generally have a decent bullpen. Their needs lie elsewhere. The next top vote-getter: The Chicago White Sox. They just lost their closer, Bobby Jenks, and while Matt Thornton had a great 2010, he’s probably best used as an elite setup man. We saw that idea gain some merit on Saturday when Jon Heyman reported that “there seems to be some interest” on the part of the Sox.

The problem, as Heyman noted, was that the White Sox have little money left in the 2011 budget. After signing Adam Dunn and re-signing Paul Konerko the team has $110.575 million in committed salaries. Baseball Reference pegs their total after arbitration and reserve clause obligations to just under $120 million. The Sox have hit that total only once in team history, in 2007 when they finished 72-90. If they do intend to sign Soriano, it appears as though they’d have to shed at least one contract. Since they do have a number of quality pitchers, the Yankees will likely take a look if they make one available.

Last month Mike took a look at Mark Buehrle, who is owed $14 million this season before he becomes a free agent. There also was a clause in his contract that gave him a $1 million raise, plus a guaranteed $15 million in 2012. From the way it looks on the White Sox Cot’s page, that clause expired when Buehrle gained 10 and 5 rights on July 16, 2010. That means he can reject any trade for whatever reason. The White Sox, then, might look to another pricey starter who hits free agency next season if they want to free up some payroll.

Yankees fans should be familiar with Edwin Jackson. In 2008 he faced the Yankees six times and allowed one or fewer runs in half of those starts. Thankfully, in the other three he allowed five or more. The next year he moved to Detroit, where he’d face the Yankees less, but in his two starts he pitched 13 innings and allowed just two runs. That was by far his best year, and it was even better until he flopped in September (and helped the downfall of the then-playoff-bound Tigers). When the Tigers traded him last off-season the Yankees were involved. Could his next trade involve the Yankees again?

Jackson has certainly experienced his ups and downs throughout his big league career. He made his major league debut in 2003 at age 19, and after the season was named Baseball America’s No. 4 overall prospect. Yet he never found consistent success with the Dodgers. They eventually gave up on him, sending him to Tampa Bay in exchange for Danys Baez in the winter before the 2006 season. It took Jackson a couple of years, but by 2008 he appeared to be a decent pitcher. In 2009 and 2010 he gained notoriety, first for his spectacular first half in 2009, and then for pitching a no-hitter in 2010. He ended the 2010 season in Chicago, where he pitched exceptionally well, striking out more than a batter per inning in his 11 starts.

The problem with Jackson is that even though he has pitched in the majors for parts of eight seasons, we still don’t have a decent grasp of what to expect from him. For instance, in 2008 and 2009 he posted identical 39.1 percent ground ball rates. But in 2010 that jumped all the way to 49.4 percent. His strikeout rate has jumped around, too. In 2008 he struck out just 5.30 per nine, but in 2009 that went up by more than a batter per nine to 6.77. In 2010 he appeared to be at a similar pace, 6.97 per nine with the Diamondbacks, before he exploded at the end of the season and ended up with a K/ of 7.78.

There are two aspects of Jackson’s game that I’m comfortable in forecasting. He’s probably going to walk three per nine, which is completely acceptable for any pitcher, and actually a very good mark for a back-end guy. Also, his HR/FB ratio has hovered right around 10 percent for the past few years, which is about league average. This is excellent news if he’s the 50 percent ground ball from 2010, but less good news if he’s closer to 40 percent. Again, it’s hard to get a solid reason on the exact type of pitcher he can be for the Yankees.

The biggest obstacle in any potential Jackson trade is Chicago’s demands for a return. This will not be another Nick Swisher trade. Jackson is coming off a solid year that got substantially better at the end, when he moved back to the AL. Chicago is clearly all-in this season, so they’re not going to let one of their starters go for cheap — especially because of the uncertainty surrounding Jake Peavy. The White Sox need a third baseman, and the Yankees don’t have one to spare. Or, at least, they don’t have one who represents a substantial upgrade over what the Sox already have in-house. That means finding another match, or involving another team. That complicates the issues, and complications often kill potential trades.

If the White Sox do intent to acquire Rafael Soriano and shore up their bullpen, I would like to see the Yankees engage them regarding Jackson. He’s not a perfect fit, as his numbers have been all over the plate in the last three seasons. But he does represent an upgrade over Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova, which is something the Yankees should be seeking right now. The Sox and the Yanks might not match up on a trade, so I don’t expect anything to come from this. But if he’s available, I’d like to see the Yankees make a decent run for his services.

Stealing Wins: The 2010 Yankees & Baserunning
The 2010 Yankees & Inherited Runners
  • Steve H


    Not a fan of Jackson. It might just be my eyes (which as Heyman proves, we cannot rely on) but doesn’t Jackson throw the straightest fastball in history?

    • Thomas

      Fangraphs has his fastball well below average in his career (-76.1 runs) despite having good velocity (average of 94.1 mph in his career) with yearly values of:

      -7.3 2010
      -8.9 2009
      -13.4 2008
      -23.6 2007

      So his fastball is probably straight or he has very little command of it.

      • The Real JobaWockeeZ

        Or it only means he’s getting smacked around with it. Ted Lily with his mid 80’s fastball is positive. Would you really have his fastball over Jackson’s or someone like Burnett with a negative fastball rating?

        We can’t make conclusions from pitch values other than it got hit.

        • Mister Delaware

          Depends. If you knew the results would hold, you’d pick Lilly. If you think you could modify Jackson’s fastball by adding some cut or sink, it has the potential to be a plus pitch.

          • The Real JobaWockeeZ

            The problem is that pitch values don’t tell you anything about the quality of the pitch.

            It just tells us it got hit. I mean in one year if Lilly gets lucky, faces bad hitters and throws his fastball less than league average his pitch value would be good when it may be a very hittable pitch.

            • Mister Delaware

              Plus defense, plus ballpark, plus injury, plus count tendencies, plus etc, etc. Agreed.

              • Preston

                The problem is also that a pitch’s quality is tied to what a pitcher does with his other pitches. Only Mo can get by only throwing one pitch. So if you’re erratic and can’t hit the strike zone with your other pitches no matter how “good” your fast ball is it will get hit.

      • alfonse

        we do not want another AJ burnett

    • isaac

      to steven h: great because we love jackson in chicago,hope he isnt going anywhere

  • Tucker

    The Yankees do have a 3rd basemen available for a trade the White Sox might be interested in: Brandon Laird. A package around him and, say, Adam Warren could work

    • Mike HC

      I would think we would have to give up more, but who knows. I can’t imagine getting him without giving up one of the Killer B’s plus another decent prospect or two. But it is tough to predict who other teams are interested in and how desperate they are to move a guy, so maybe your proposal could get it done if Cash holds strong to it.

    • The Real JobaWockeeZ

      Mike obviously had Laird in mind but he the Sox probably already have their own Laird.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      White Sox have Brent Morel, who is as good a bet as, if not a better bet than, Laird right now.

  • Mike HC

    He seems like a complete crap shoot to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if he pitches great or completely implodes year to year. I’m sure that won’t stop the White Sox from asking for Montero and our top pitching prospects and then turn around and trade him to some other team for their mediocre prospects though.

  • Mark

    Do the White Sox even have another starter to replace Jackson? Why would they do this?

    • Zack

      As Joe pointd out in the article – there’s speculation that they have interest in Soriano but need to move salary in order to make it happen.

      • derek

        Soriano is a closer, Zack

        • Zack

          Right, didn’t say he wasn’t. The speculation has been that if they want Soriano they have to move a SP to make room in the payroll.

      • Mark

        Soriano is a relief pitcher, not a starter. Do the White Sox have another starter to take over for Jackson or would they need one in a trade is my question.

        • vin

          There has been talk about giving Chris Sale a shot at starting in 2011. Not sure what the latest rumblings on that are though.

        • Zack

          I know he’s a reliever, I was answering your second question: Why would they do this?

          I don’t know their system, I just know that the rumors have been they have interest in Soriano for their bullpen, and that would require trading one of their SP to make room for salary.

  • Ross in Jersey

    I’d be terrified of his walk rate and his GB% falling off. If he puts a ton of guys on base and his HR/FB% rises in Yankee Stadium… ouch. But you could certainly do a lot worse than him.

  • Mark

    The real question is: Is he better than either Nova or Mitre?

    • vin

      AND how much will it cost to acquire him?

    • The Real JobaWockeeZ

      I’m sure a 3.86 FIP last year is a damn good improvement to whatever Nova and Mitre will provide.

    • Dave M

      “The real question is: Is he better than either Nova or Mitre?”

      I think so. Even if he’s not, we still need depth. You really need 6 starters. I think right now, we realistically still only have 3 with 2 question marks. I’d rather have 4 with 2 question marks. But I don’t want to give up any of the killer B’s for Jackson. So I guess we just have to go with what we have until one or two of those guys (or Noesi) are ready.

    • dalelama

      Heck he is better than AJ, Nova, and Mitre.

      • gmrich

        No, he is worse, just like Javier Vasquez.

    • gmrich

      No he is not, you idiots, he is over paid, and another Javier Vasquez.

  • The Real JobaWockeeZ

    If the Yankees intend on trading the the ChiSox for pitching they are definitely gonna have to wait until a good portion of the season is over. They’re going to grossly overpay if they don’t.

    When Peavy is back go get Buehrle, Floyd or Jackson.

    • Mike Myers

      Seems like a mid season pickup is going to be the best way to go this year as RAB has pointed out….thats assuming cash doesnt get shanked on a deal

  • Adam Hobson

    Is it just me or has Edwin Jackson become the new Esteban Loaiza?

    • gmrich

      No, he is worse, he is the next Javier Vasquez.

  • theyankeewarrior

    Give me (someone other than Nova/Mitre) or give me death.

  • mike

    I’d go for a lefty starter and we should be targeting Wandy Rodriguez. No way the Sox left Jackson go for close to nothing

    • RL

      Agree. Wandy still seems like the best option in trade that I’ve seen so far.

  • Avi

    Biggest concern I have with Jackson is the 149 pitches he threw on June 25th.

    • RL

      If that’s your biggest concern with him (I assume you’re looking at injury potential due to the workload), that’s not really a big deal. I’d have these concerns with any pitcher. He hasn’t had a disturbing injury history, so I don’t see that as a big deal after a long off-season.

      My concerns are:

      1) Righty
      2) Largely poor GB rate (last season not withstanding)
      3) FB/HR rate likely to change in YSIII (in the wrong direction)
      4) Asking price in a trade

  • Avi

    Jackson is due to make $8.35M is the final year of his contract this year.

  • bottom line

    Of course, we could just sign Soriano. Then we’d have Joba as centerpiece for trade. Packaged with Noesi or Warren and perhaps even Romine — that’s a very good package that could land a solid starter I would think. Then we’ve improved both rotation and pen and begin to match up with Sox.

  • Granderslam

    I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to Jackson, given our depth issue and the fact that even I am a better option than Mitre…my only concern is the lack of Lefty in the rotation. I feel like we need 2 Lefty arms, especially with the Lefty hitting heavy Red Sox.

  • Gio

    I would welcome either Buerhle or Jackson over Mitre as #4 or #5. Keep him as a #6/long relief at best. Give Nova a shot as the #5. Then if Andy comes back we plug him in and Nova moves to longman/#6. Mitre gets bumped to AAA.

  • jeremy

    i think they might need a backup catcher so how about laird, cervelli, and warren/noesi? seems reasonable. i doubt k. williams wants to trade jackson for crap since he gave up a lot to get him.

  • gmrich

    I don’t want Edwin Jackson, he is another Javier Vasquez, he sucks as bad as Vasquez does, putting him on the Yankees and in the rotation with AJ Burnett, is like putting 2 losses together every time their turns come up, I say, give Nova, and maybe the kid Phelps a shot, let’s see what they have, why are you fans so adamant about winning now, I’m willing to take a step back, to take 2 steps forward, stop acting like idiot George Steinbrenner, and act like a human being, and give these kids a chance to grow into something special.

  • Preston

    I’m not sure throwing Phelps into the majors after half a season at AAA is giving him a chance to grow. It’s more like giving him a chance to sink or swim. Let him and Noesi start in AAA and then work them in as spot starters and see if they can catch on. Nova pitched a full year in AAA and had a fairly good stint in the majors, I think everyone is ready to give him a shot. But that leaves us with only four starters. Mitre should not be an option. He’s terrible. We know he’s terrible. We need something better. Now at the same time I don’t want to give away a ton of prospects for a fourth or fifth starter.