Collective Mailbag: Edwin Jackson

Switching Gardner and Granderson
Phillies decline Roy Oswalt's option

At least a dozen emailers, paraphrased: Will the Yankees show any interest in Edwin Jackson this off-season?

If it feels as though Edwin Jackson has been around the league for nearly a decade, it’s because he has. He made his debut in 2003 at age 19, throwing 22 innings for the Dodgers. That came after he rolled through the AA Southern League with relative easy, producing a 3.70 ERA and a 2.86 FIP. It’s tough to mistake that type of talent as anything but star-bound.

It didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off. The Dodgers let him start the 2004 season in AAA, and he got rocked down there. His stint in the majors went just as poorly. A repeat in 2005 completely removed Jackson’s prospect luster. The Dodgers wasted little time in trading him to the Rays for Danys Baez and Lance Carter. That is, they traded a 22-year-old who, two years prior, was Baseball America’s No. 4 overall prospect, for what amounted to an overrated reliever and an utterly crappy one.

Here’s where Jackson’s story becomes relevant to the Yankees’ interest in him. Once he was out of options, in 2007, the Rays made him a full-time starter. In each year since then he has made at least 31 starts. That makes him seem a durable pitcher, something teams value on the free agent market. But in those five full-time seasons Jackson has displayed a measure of inconsistency. His ERA has fluctuated wildly, moving 1.00 or more in three of the last four off-seasons (and 0.85 in the fourth).

Yet we know that ERA tends to fluctuate year-to-year, at least to some degree. That’s why we have FIP: to look at a pitcher through events over which he has most control. In this manner Jackson has shown inconsistency too, especially in his strikeout rate. Here are Jackson’s K/9 numbers from the last five years:


Again, we’re not talking small fluctuations here. We’re talking a change of at least 1.00 per nine every season. That should make wary anyone with a long-term contract offer in hand.

There are a number of things to like about Jackson. He’s still just 28 years old, so there shouldn’t be any decline-related worries. As mentioned, he’s also made at least 31 starts in each of the last five seasons, so he’s proven himself durable. He’s also seen his FIP pretty consistently decline over the last three seasons. from from 4.88 in 2008 to 3.55 this past season. His xFIP has also dropped a bit, to around 3.70 in each of the last two seasons. He pitched plenty of those seasons in the AL as well — in fact, you could say that he pitched better in Chicago than he did at either of his NL stops.

In terms of a deal, chances are Jackson would command three to four years. Normally I’d say three, but the market works in strange ways when it comes to starters — especially those that Scott Boras represents. Only nine free agent pitchers in history have signed deals longer than four years, and given how few of them have worked out it’s pretty safe to say that four years is the max. If the Yankees were going to offer Jackson a contract I’d prefer three years at max, with a $33-$35 million ceiling. I’m not sure that gets the job done, but anything more could be a big mistake.

That said, I’m not sure the Yankees seriously consider Jackson this winter. They have a number of in-house options for the 2012 rotation. They might not be better than Jackson right now, but I suspect that the Yankees think they’ll be close enough in the near future that signing him makes little sense. He’s not a terrible get, especially on a three-year contract (that expires when he turns 31). But given the market, which I think will provide him a fourth year, and the current number of righties on the brink of the rotation, I think the Yankees pass on Jackson. He’s not a bad idea as a backup plan, though.

Switching Gardner and Granderson
Phillies decline Roy Oswalt's option
  • Dale Mohorcic

    “Only eight pitchers in history have signed deals longer than four years”. This doesn’t seem right to me. Just off the top of my head:

    Kevin Brown
    Mike Hampton
    Barry Zito
    Johan Santana
    Carlos Zambrano
    Cliff Lee
    Jered Weaver
    John Lackey

    Did you mean in Yankee history?

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      Sorry, should have read free agents.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      Thanks. Fixed the language. I also missed one, apparently. It’s nine.

  • UYF1950

    Joe, this is off topic but I think is something to consider in light of the Edwin Jackson piece. If the Yankees are not or do not sign a “bigger” name for the the #2 slot. Wouldn’t it be in their interest at least look at perhaps another “reclamation” project for just the 2012 season that could hold them over until next years free agent class and a much better crop of starting pitchers. Which brings me to my point wouldn’t Paul Maholm be at least someone to consider. The Pirates aren’t likely to pick up his $9M plus option considering his injury and the Yankees need another lefty starter. If not him what about Bruce Chen? I was just wondering what you think.

    •!/AngeloInNY Angelo

      I think the Yankees would be much more interested in Maholm. Chen is pretty awful most of the time and a number 5 starter at best.

      • Jose M. Vazquez..

        I agree. Maholm may be a sleeper and a left handed one at that. I have seen him pitch once or twice and in those occasions he looked fine. If he is a free agent he certainly deserves scrutiny by the Yankees.

    • MannyGeee

      the term ‘reclamation’ implies that they had something they lost and hence the buying team is looking to reclaim it. Sorry but Colon and Garcia had that, Maholm and Chen flat out didn’t…

      That said, I would be interested in Maholm as a low risk high reward signing…

  • MannyGeee

    butbutbutbut… Tha No Hittah!!!!!

  • Tom Zig

    No thanks on E-Jax. He’s not much different from AJ Burnett. In fact he’s probably worse.

    •!/AngeloInNY Angelo

      You’re joking, right? I’m not a huge Edwin Jackson fan, but where are the comparisons between Jackson and Burnett?

    • Ted Nelson

      Burnett now or when he hit free agency?

  • vin

    Couldn’t agree mroe with your last paragraph. In a vaccuum, I wouldn’t mind seeing Jackson with the Yanks, but I don’t think Cashman will feel he’s a big enough improvement over the other in-house options (especially when factoring in his contract).

    A little contract crowd-sourcing…
    I think Jackson will get 4/58

    • Jose M. Vazquez..

      I believe you must mean 4/48. 4/58 is too much.

      • vin

        No, I mean 4/58. Every year we underestimate FA pitching contracts… so I just went ahead and tacked on that extra 20% right now.

        Although Dave Cameron makes some good points regarding the upcoming free agency at fangraphs.

  • Ted Nelson

    Good analysis

  • Johnny O

    E-Jac will get a Gil Meche deal from some idiot. Let’s focus on resigning CC, and CJ or Yu.

    The Yanks might overpay the top free agents, but i’d rather take my chances doing that than over-paying the middling guys.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    Recently I wrote that the Yankees should take a look at Jackson because he reminded me of another righty that the Dodgers let go years ago, Dave Stewart who was converted into a pretty good pitcher by Duncan then with the Athletics and Tony LaRussa. Now, Jackson has been withDuncan a short while and I am sure he will eventually fix his cintrol. All that depends on if he is kept by the Cardinals. Of course, Rothschild could also do the task but maybe it is too much of a risk.

  • BK2ATL

    E-Jax and Boras??? A combination I’d want no part of. I also agree with the other poster who mentioned that he’d probably be more successful under Dave Duncan’s tutelage in St. Louis.

    I’d rather shoot for the stars and take a “reasonable” shot at Darvish, after re-signing CC. With Nova, Hughes/Danks, Noesi/Burnett to round out the rotation. Short of Darvish, the fallback options could be Danks, Garcia, and the kids (Noesi/Warren/Phelps).

  • Dave203

    I think there are much better options out there in the initial field. Oswalt, for example, was just declined and while I wouldn’t go offering him a 4 year deal, a decent 2-3 year deal may be a good situation for the Yanks as a bridge.

    I wouldn’t mind Jackson as a 3/4, but only if paid as such.

  • Tom Swift

    If we are talking about the 5th starter spot, wouldn’t we be better off in the long haul reserving it for one of Hughes, Warren, Noesi, etc.? We have a lot of talent on the brink of the majors. Aren’t the odds good that one of them (or Hughes) can hold down the 5 spot next season?

    • Ted Nelson

      If he continued his production from the last 2-3 years Jackson would be their #2 starter. I am not saying that I want Jackson, but there would still be room at the back of the rotation.

      I don’t see why you’re thinking of Jackson as a #5 starter.

  • Spreadsheet Sam

    Joe, you state that Jackson’s year-to-year fluctuations in K/9 are greater than normal. That implies you have some baseline of what “normal” fluctuation would be. What is that baseline?

  • the other Steve S.

    Man, I’m looking at this guy’s career on BR and I don’t see 3 years in a row that seem worth $34 mil. Assuming he’s gonna suddenly get better seems a little Pollyannaish to me. Pass.

    • Ted Nelson

      I wouldn’t rush to pay him either (especially because I think it could take over 3/34), but the past three seasons he’s averaged 3.73 fWAR per season. He doesn’t have to get any better to justify a 3 year $34 mill deal, just stay the same.

  • Joe

    Why the hell do my comments keep getting deleted?

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      Because they’re horribly off-topic.

      • Joe

        Off Topic? I made a trade proposal on a topic about free agency? That is not off topic. Granted it wasn’t on Edwin Jackson but it was involving the Yankees. Off topic would be the people who talk non sense stuff on here. I think you need to reconsider what is off topic I can go back on posts and find you off topic comments if needed.

  • IB6 UB9

    I’d bring in Ben Sheets, Rich Harden and Bedard for a single rotation spot, 11 starts each. The 40-man would get tight but ideally they would stagger their injuries.

    A rotation of Sabathia, Darvish, Nova, Hughes and Sheets/Harden/Bedard would be decent.

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