The trade deadline is just six days away now, so if the Yankees are going to make a move for a starting pitcher, it’s going to happen soon. We’ve been highlighting potential trade candidates for weeks now and we’ll do another one this afternoon: Edwin Jackson of the White Sox. Chicago is 49-50 with a -2 run differential this year, but they’re still just 4.5 games back of the AL Central lead. They’ve won five of eight since the All-Star break but are just 9-9 in July, and they haven’t been within three games of the division lead since mid-April. A healthy John Danks gives them six starters and one very nice trade chip to dangle. It makes sense that it would be the impending free agent.
Jackson is no stranger to being dealt, having been traded four times overall and three times in the last two and a half years. He was part of the three-team trade that brought Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, going from the Tigers to the Diamondbacks before being traded to the ChiSox at the deadline last year. Does that mean the clubs that had him didn’t like him and got rid of him, or does it mean that so many other teams wanted him? Choose your own narrative and we break down the facts…
- It seems like Jackson’s been around forever, but he’s still just 27 (28 in September). His career is progressing like it should be; he’s getting better every year. His FIP (3.20 this season) has improved every season since he became a full-time starter in 2007. His xFIP (3.41) and K/BB ratio (2.49) have gotten better every year since 2008. Jackson owns career bests in walk (2.74 uIBB/9) and homer (0.59 HR/9) rates this year, and you can see that just about everything is trending in the righty direction at his year-by-year graphs page on FanGraphs.
- Jackson has the kind of power stuff the Yankees typically covet. His fastball sits in the mid-90’s and has his entire career, and he’ll also use a high-80’s slider and a mid-80’s changeup. It’s worth noting that the ChiSox and pitching guru Don Cooper had Jackson incorporate a two-seamer and use more offspeed pitches after trading for him last year. From 2008 until the trade last August, he threw basically no two-seamers and just 22.9% sliders and 8.1% changeups. Since the trade, he’s up to 8.4% two-seamers, 37.4% sliders, and 11.4% changeups. It’s probably not an accident that he’s done his best pitching with Chicago.
- Aside from a forearm strain way back in 2004, Jackson has never dealt with injury problems. He’s made at least 31 starts every year since 2007 and has thrown at least 200 innings in each of the last two years and 180 innings in each of the last three. He’s on pace to do it yet again this season. Jackson has spent the vast majority of his career in the AL and a good chunk of it in the AL East with the (Devil) Rays.
- Jackson is a pure rental is his salary is miniscule: $8.35M for the season, so approximately $2.78M after July 31st. He projects to be a Type-B free agent (though just barely), and it would be an easy choice to offer arbitration given his relatively low base salary.
- Jackson is surrendering more line drives that ever, a career-high 23.5% of the time this season. That’s led to a .333 BABIP and 134 hits allowed in 121.2 IP. The number of hits allowed and his batting average against (.283) are both among the ten worse in the AL. His career BABIP is .309, so it’s not like there’s a huge regression coming.
- Despite the high-end stuff, Jackson has never really excelled at missing bats. His 7.18 K/9 this season is barely above the league average (7.02) and down from 7.78 K/9 last year. His 8.9% swing and miss rate is above the league average (8.5%) but down from last year (10.4%) and the year before (9.8%).
- Although he doesn’t really have much of a platoon split over his entire career, he does have one this year. It’s not huge but it exists, likely because of the increased emphasis of his slider, a pitch not normally used against batters of the opposite hand.
- Jackson has pitched in the postseason but not really. Tampa left him off their ALDS roster in 2008 then used him for just three relief appearances and 4.1 IP in the ALCS and World Series combined. That’s the only time he’s played on a serious contender, though he was part of the 2009 Tigers that played in a Game 163 against the Twins.
- Jackson is a Scott Boras client, so he will definitely test the market after the season. Acquiring him wouldn’t give a club the inside track to re-signing him this offseason based on Boras’ history. I’m sure he’ll be touting Jackson as the next Roy Halladay or something.
The Yankees had a scout in Cleveland yesterday, a game in which Jackson just so happened to be pitching. He gave up two runs in six innings but walked as many as he struck out (three). Chicago has also been keeping an eye on the Yankees’ farm system. There have been rumblings about a potential deal that would have Jackson going to the Cardinals as part of a package for Colby Rasmus, but who knows if that’s true. If it is, the Yankees have little chance of acquiring him because they won’t be able to top St. Louis’ offer. Well, they could, but it wouldn’t be the smartest thing they’ve done.
The ol’ trade value calculator values the remainder of Jackson’s season and Type-B free agent status at $11M or so, assuming he maintains his current performance level for 31 starts. Victor Wang’s research gives us an idea of what that would be in prospects, essentially a back-end of the top 100 guy or some combination of two Grade-B prospects. Austin Romine or David Phelps plus Corban Joseph? Gary Sanchez or Adam Warren plus J.R. Murphy? I’m just throwing names out there, the reality is that we have absolutely no idea what the White Sox would want in return. The calculator at least gives us a halfway decent estimation. Brian Cashman has fleeced Kenny Williams before, though I don’t think we can count on that happening again. Either way, Jackson seems like he’d been a rock solid pickup for the stretch run, a legitimate starter than you can count on to stay healthy and outperform the cache of back-end arms on the roster.