Scouting the Free Agent Market: Edwin JacksonBy
If you take a look at MLB Trade Rumors’ remaining free agents list, you might notice something peculiar. Actually, maybe you won’t; I didn’t until Mike pointed it out. First browse the position players and identify players who could hit in the middle of a contender’s lineup. Then look at the relievers and see who could soak up high leverage innings. And then finally look at starting pitchers and see which ones will likely give you above-average production. We might quibble here and there on the details, but it’s pretty clear that the three best remaining players from those categories are Prince Fielder, Ryan Madson, and Edwin Jackson. It should come as no surprise to learn what they all have in common.
They’re all Scott Boras clients.
Boras has laid relatively low this off-season. He has placed only three players so far, four counting Andrew Brackman, and they’re all lower-tier types: Bruce Chen, Gerald Laird, and Willie Bloomquist. Yet his greatest assets are still not only on the market, but they’re the best choice for any team looking to upgrade. That means he’ll likely extract a decent price for them. While the market remains quiet for Jackson — his last MLBTR mention came more than a week ago, and it was to note a non-interested team — he’ll surely fetch a decent sum if only because he’s the best remaining pitcher on the market.
Chances are the Yanks won’t pursue him. They stayed out of the C.J. Wilson sweepstakes and reports are that they didn’t go big on Yu Darvish. It sounds as though they’re looking for either a true No. 2, or to shore up the back end of the rotation. Jackson could help them in the middle of the rotation, but probably not at a cost that the Yankees find appealing.
- Jackson just turned 28 this past September, making him one of the younger options on the market. Many, if not most, free agents hit the market as they’re exiting their prime years. Jackson is just entering them. That makes it more likely they’ll pay for future, rather than past, performance.
- He’s shown some improvement in his peripherals the past two years, notably in his ground ball rate. He’s also kept the ball in the park better in the last two seasons, which has led to his two best FIP seasons.
- Even with a .330 BABIP last year, almost 20 points higher than his career average, he still managed a 3.79 ERA in nearly 200 innings.
- His last two seasons have been split between the AL and the NL, but he’s actually performed better in the AL — while pitching for the White Sox, a team with a hitter-friendly park.
- Once a big problem, he’s improved his walk rate in the last year and a half.
- His numbers in the last three seasons: 622 IP, 7.09 K/9, 3.04 BB/9, 0.93 HR/9, 3.96 ERA, 3.91 FIP. Those aren’t outstanding numbers, but they’re solidly above average.
- Scott Boras has him in a good position now and can likely extract a decent price. Plenty of teams need pitching, and as listed above Jackson has plenty of positive qualities. Chances are he’ll provide solidly above production for a salary of a slightly better pitcher.
- He hasn’t exactly been a welcome member of any staff, as he’s pitched for six teams in his career. Part of that might be circumstance beyond his control. But there has to be something about a pitcher that so many teams are willing to part with.
- Chances are that in addition to a sizable salary, Boras is also looking for a four-year contract, or even more. That’s a long time to commit to a pitcher who will at best be your No. 3.
- As we mentioned earlier in the off-season, Jackson’s strikeout rate tends to fluctuate wildly. It’s not necessarily a red flag, but it does raise some eyebrows.
There’s no way to justify it other than saying it’s a gut feeling, but it seems as though Jackson is the type of free agent who would sign with the Yankees and then pitch pretty poorly. Maybe it wouldn’t be Carl Pavano 2.0, but I do feel as though Jackson wouldn’t work out nearly as well as the numbers suggest. This is by no way an authoritative stance, but it’s just something that I’ve felt when evaluating Jackson as a free agent.