Archive for Edwin Jackson
Via Buster Olney, the Yankees like free agent starter Edwin Jackson, but they don’t have the room to add him because Rafael Soriano is taking up a big part of their budget ($11M in 2012, $14M in 2013). Joe wrote about Soriano and how his contract may be preventing moves last week, in case you missed it.
Would Jackson help the Yankees next year? Of course. Is he the one missing piece that would put them over the top? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened. I know he’s young and all that, but he is a classic “should be better than he is” type and I think the Yankees have about three of those guys in the rotation already. Being the best available anything has a way of distorting reality and making players seem better than they really are, which is what happened with Gio Gonzalez and is probably happening with Jackson. I’m terrified of ownership stepping in an ordering a signing here, frankly.
If the Yankees don’t make a move for a pitcher this off-season, it won’t be for lack of options. To this point we’ve seen two free agent signings, an NPB posting, and two trades involving pitchers who would represent an upgrade to the Yankees. Perhaps they think that the prices to acquire these pitchers does not match the upgrade they’d receive, but the opportunities are there nonetheless. Brian Cashman figures to have a few more chances to upgrade later this winter, as there are a number of actually or reportedly available pitchers.
In terms of pure results, he’s the best available arm. His 3.31 ERA since 2009 ranks 23rd among all qualified starters. Even better, he’s reportedly seeking a one-year contract at a reasonable $12 or $13 million. The Yankees have been frequently connected to Kuroda, and it stands to reason that they’ll remain involved until he does sign somewhere.
While he does have the top results, there are some downsides to Kuroda. For instance, the hitters on the Rays, Orioles, Red Sox, and Blue Jays are better than those on the Padres, Rockies, Giants, and Diamondbacks. The AL East also features more hitter-friendly parks than the NL West. Then there’s Kuroda’s age, 37. A one-year deal helps limit some of that risk, but if he shows decline in 2012 he might not present much of an upgrade.
Not far behind Kuroda in terms of results is Wandy Rodriguez. The Astros shopped him at last year’s trade deadline, but the Yankees weren’t interested unless Houston paid a significant portion of his remaining salary. He’s owed $36 million for the next three years, because his 2014 option becomes a player option if traded. That makes him much less attractive, meaning Houston will have to kick in some cash if they want to trade him. While they showed reluctance earlier in the off-season, they now appear willing to make that trade-off.
Not only does the NL Central have a number of top-flight hitters, but none of them actually play for the Astros. That is, Rodriguez has the burden of facing all of these elite hitters. The closest they ever had was Hunter Pence, but he wasn’t even a top-five hitter in the division. That does make him look a bit more attractive. He also has fewer pitchers’ parks in the division. Yet the Yankees appear not at all interested. That’s probably because of the commitment length. Were Rodriguez signed only through 2013 they might be more on board. But three years to a pitcher you’re not totally sold on? While Rodriguez might help, it’s understandable why the Yankees are shying away.
In the last three years, despite multiple bouts with lower back injuries, Oswalt has accumulated a 3.46 ERA in 531 innings. All told that’s a pretty solid accomplishment. Since we just discussed Oswalt yesterday there’s no need to elaborate further. He remains a tantalizing yet risky option.
There has been no shortage of Gio Gonzalez news this winter. The A’s seem pretty intent on trading him, and judging by how slowly they’re moving they’re also trying to extract every last drop of value from another team. This makes complete sense. Gonzalez ranks 39th in ERA among all starters from 2009-2011, despite his horrible 2009 showing. He’s been among the best in terms of results the last two seasons. Even when you look at only his away stats, he still fares pretty well: 3.96 ERA in 238.2 innings since 2009. That takes away some of the concern that he’s the product of a large ballpark.
The Nationals were rumored to be pushing hard for Gonzalez, offering up a four-for-one trade that will involve prospects Brad Peacock and Derek Norris, among others. Still, four-for-one deals can get complicated, since they typically lack top-end quality. Today on ESPN.com, Jim Bowden suggested a few trades for Gonzalez (subscription required). For the Yankees he suggests Dellin Betances, David Phelps, and Austin Romine. Since Gonzalez has four years remaining of team control, this could work out for the Yankees. The only catch: Oakland might find a better package, and one that fits their needs better, elsewhere.
Garza represents an interesting option, if only because he’s experienced success in the AL East. But the Cubs are apparently asking for a lot. Would the Yankees be willing to trade Banuelos and at least one other top-five prospect (Gary Sanchez or Mason Williams), plus other pieces, to get the last two years of Garza’s pre-free agency years? It seems unlikely. While he’s been good, he might be a bit more expensive than other pitchers. If he costs more than Gonzalez, he certainly isn’t worth it.
You can check out our large and growing John Danks archive for various takes on the 27-year-old left-hander. He’s an enticing option for a few reasons. He’s been solid for the last four years, he has AL experience and in a hitters’ park no less, and he is conceivably someone the Yanks could sign long-term after the 2012 season. The issue, as with Garza, is that the White Sox are asking the moon for him. It’s simply not worth a top-five prospect for a player who will reach free agency after this season. At a price more commensurate with his overall value, Danks could be the best target on the board.
A free agent, Jackson requires just one resource to acquire: money. The Yankees have that in abundance, though they’re seemingly not throwing it around this off-season. They might also be reluctant to sign Jackson for four years. As with Oswalt, we covered Edwin Jackson recently, so there’s no need to dive any deeper into his case. He’s there for the taking and could represent an upgrade in the Yanks rotation.
That brings us to a dozen candidates who could have upgraded, or still might upgrade, the Yanks rotation in 2012. All of the candidates, save for Darvish, have sported ERAs under 4.00 since 2009. They’ve all thrown a good number of innings, and everyone on the list, save for Oswalt and maybe Latos, has been relatively healthy. If the Yankees are serious about upgrading their rotation, they’ll connect on one of these 12 options, even though there are just seven remaining.
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.
Via George King, the Yankees have been in contact with the agent for right-hander Edwin Jackson, a reasonable fellow named Scott Boras. Brian Cashman said his priority this winter will be pitching, which is why he’s been in contact with Jackson, Roy Oswalt, and C.J. Wilson already.
This is still the time of the offseason when teams and free agents are just feeling each other out, gauging interest and whatnot. It’s not a surprise that the Yankees have already gotten in touch with basically the three best free agent starting pitchers, but we’re a long way from offers and bidding wars and all that fun stuff. It’s an underwhelming class of starters, but I think Jackson is the best bet to be worth his contract going forward. Doesn’t make him a bargain or a must-have, though.
I was in the writing mood when I put this together yesterday, so you’re getting seven questions and close to 2,000 words worth of mailbag this morning. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions.
Many, many people asked: What about Grady Sizemore in some capacity?
The vast majority of the questions we got this week were about Sizemore, either as a fourth outfielder or a full-time corner guy with Nick Swisher or Brett Gardner being traded away. From 2005-2008, Sizemore was arguably the best player in the game, hitting .281/.372/.496 (.376 wOBA) with power (107 homers) and speed (115 steals) to go along with very strong defense in center field. His 27.4 fWAR and 24.4 bWAR during those four years were both the fourth highest in the game. He’s a free agent because the Tribe declined his $9M club option earlier in the week.
The now 29-year-old Sizemore is a shell of his former self due to injuries, specifically to his knees. He had microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2010 (and then some setbacks), and had an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee just a few weeks ago. He’s also needed surgery for two sports hernias (2009 and 2011) and for a debridement in his elbow (2009). All those injuries have limited Sizemore to just 210 games over the last three years (no more than 106 in a single season), during which time he’s hit .234/.314/.413 without any of the speed he showed before (just 17-for-29 in steal attempts). Over the last two years, it’s a .220/.280/.379 line with four steals in eight attempts in 104 games.
I don’t see the fourth outfielder thing working for the Yankees because he’s a left-handed hitter, and they have enough of those in the outfield already. They need a right-handed bat that can step into the lineup against tough southpaws, especially the AL East guys like David Price, Jon Lester, and Ricky Romero. I also don’t see any reason to believe that Sizemore can hold up for a full season playing everyday, he hasn’t done that in three years now. He’s a sexy name because he was legitimately one of the best players in the sport at one time, but Sizemore isn’t that guy anymore and there’s not much evidence that he’s coming back. I expect him to sign with some team that guarantees him a bunch of playing time, then is left scrambling when he gets hurt again.
Ed asks: Let’s say the Rockies non-tender Ryan Spilborghs this offseason, should the Yanks sign him to replace Andruw Jones for the 2012 season? Spilborghs has a career .277/.357/.443 line against lefties, and is a decent fielder.
Spilborghs is okay, but he got wildly overrated a few years ago because he had some dramatic hits during the Rockies’ run to the World Series in 2007. I don’t even think he even qualifies as a platoon bat anymore, he’s hit just .236/.332/.401 against lefties over the last three seasons (.258/.317/.384 vs. RHP), so the majority of his career damage against southpaws came 4+ years ago. Spilborghs is a big step down from Jones, who works the count well and (more importantly) can really hit for power.
As an aside, my all-time favorite Ryan Spilborghs moment was when Woody Paige said the Rockies should trade Matt Holliday (in June 2008) so Spilborghs could become “a full-time starting outfielder who could be the next Holliday.” Nice thought, if it wasn’t for the fact that Spliborghs is four months older than Holliday. Fire Joe Morgan did a number on that one.
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.
Five questions this week, and four are farm system-related in one way or another. You can use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar whenever you want to send in a question.
Matt asks: Would you agree that an off-season strategy could be to include E. Nunez in a package for something the Yankees want, while giving his role for 2012 to Corban Joseph?
I would not agree with that, mainly because Joseph can’t play shortstop. I assume he played it in high school, but he’s been a second baseman almost exclusively as a pro. I’m willing to bet that CoJo could fake short in an emergency, but Derek Jeter‘s getting up there in age, and the Yankees need someone capable of playing there for an extended period of time without embarrassing themselves. Nunez can do that, Ramiro Pena can maybe do that, but I’m not sure Joseph can. I think if anything, he could step into Eric Chavez‘s shoes as the lefty bat/corner infielder, but I can understand wanting a veteran in that role.
The CoJo situation will be interesting to watch, because I’m not really sure where he fits in. He’s obviously not going to unseat Robinson Cano at second, so maybe it’s best to turn into some kind of utility guy that can play first, second, third, and maybe left. Of course, they could always use him as trade bait. I would have no trouble trading Nunez in the right package, but I wouldn’t count on Joseph replacing him, at least not in 2012.
Jeff asks: Hey Mike, I read that Zachary Arneson signed for a 20k bonus. Any idea why it was so low compared to other picks before and after his round? Cheers.
Arneson, this year’s ninth rounder, was a college senior out of Lewis-Clark State, and college seniors don’t have much leverage at all. Their options are either sign or go back to school as a fifth year senior and come out next year with even less leverage. Very rarely do they improve their stock. Seniors definitely get the shaft in the draft game, but that’s life. Some other notable college seniors the Yankees have drafted in recent years: Adam Warren ($195k), Tim Norton ($85k), Kyle Roller ($45k), Sam Elam ($40k), T.J. Beam ($20k), and Chris Malec ($1k). Yep, Malec got a grand, that’s it.
Update: One thing I forgot to mention … the signing deadline does not apply to college seniors. They are free to sign at any point before the next year’s draft.
Sean asks: With St. Louis about to (presumably) tie up a lot of money in Pujols, do you think there is a chance to snag a piece of their rotation in the off-season? Assuming they do not exercise their options for Wainwright or Carpenter, can you see the Yankees pursuing either of them or Edwin Jackson? And if so, what kind of contract would Wainwright be looking for?
Despite the Tommy John surgery, I can’t see why the Cardinals would decline Adam Wainwright’s options after the season. The team has to pick up both at the same time, and they’ll pay him $9M next season and $12M the season after. Even if he comes back and is two-thirds of what he was before (so 4+ WAR instead of 6+ WAR), that’s a bargain. They’d be foolish not to pick them up, but if they didn’t for whatever reason, I’d want the Yankees to be all over him. Wainwright’s a legit ace when healthy, with a fastball-curveball combo that will play anywhere, NL Central or AL East. There’s no real precedent for an ace-caliber pitcher hitting the open market after missing the year due to injury, so I have no idea what kind of contract would be appropriate. Maybe one-year, $10M plus incentives and a huge option for 2012 ($18M?) to let him rebuild his value than cash in shortly thereafter? I have no idea, just spitballin’.
Chris Carpenter is a much different story. We’ve written about him a number of times here, and his option is for $15M next year. That’s pricey for a 36-year-old who’s still very good (3.10 FIP), but maybe not truly elite anymore. He’d be an ideal stopgap number two type for the Yankees, allowing them to avoid the C.J. Wilsons of the world before going nuts on the 2012 free agent class (Matt Cain, John Danks, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, all of them and more will be free agents after next season). Edwin Jackson … meh. I loved him as a rental for this year, but signing him to a multi-year deal as a free agent? I’d rather pass on that.
JCK asks: Pat Venditte has been great since mid-June in Trenton. Everyone says his stuff doesn’t play to major league hitters, but he’s adjusted to every level so far. Do you think the Yankees protect him this winter?
Venditte’s eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter, and no, I don’t think the Yankees will protect him. David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell, and George Kontos are all going to have to be added to the 40-man roster after the season, and there’s only so much room for pitchers on that thing. Venditte’s done a great job in the minors, but he doesn’t really have an out pitch from either side and it shows in his strikeout rate this year (8.74 K/9 this year vs. 11+ in previous years). He’s a great org arm, but there wouldn’t be much attention paid to Venditte if he only threw with one arm. I’m pretty sure some team will grab him in the Rule 5 just to give him a look in Spring Training, the novelty is too tempting, but I can’t imagine him sticking in the big leagues for all of 2012. I have to think he’d be offered back at some point.
Alex asks: How involved have the Yankees been in IFA this year? What have been their major signings? It seems as though they’ve been more quiet on this front than in years past.
The Yankees have only signed one player so far (that we know of), Dominican third baseman Miguel Andujar for $750k. The top guys (Victor Sanchez, Elier Hernandez, and Ronald Guzman) have all signed somewhere, but there is still plenty of talent out there for taking, namely Roberto Osuna, who the Yankees have their eyes on. The entire international market seems to have slowed down recently because MLB has really stepped up their age and identity verification process, but remember that the signing period never ends. There’s no deadline, but a new crop of players is added every July 2nd. In fact, the Yankees’ two biggest signings last year – Rafael DePaula and Juan Carlos Paniagua – didn’t agree to terms until December and March, respectively. You can question their drafting strategies, but there’s no way to question the work the Yankees do in Latin America. They consistently produce quality players and prospects year after year, and I see no reason to believe this year will be any different.
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.
One of the more enjoyable things to speculate about is which players the Yankees are going to acquire next. Call it typical Yankee fan conceit if you want, but I’m not sure that’s it. Fans of every team look forward to what’s next, whether it be a prospect on the horizon, a free agent signing or a trade. Speculating about trades is an enjoyable exercise – you get to investigate other teams, other players, you get to dig around their financial situation and try to find a good deal (see my Beat L.A. piece last week) or dig around player’s statistical profiles and see if you can spot inefficiencies or underappreciated guys.
This summer, many expect the Yankees to attempt to add a starting pitcher. There’s considerable uncertainty in the rotation right now – no one knows if or when Phil Hughes will be back, and no one knows how long Colon and Garcia can continue providing the team quality innings. Aside from picking at the carcass of the Dodgers, one team fans look to as a possible trade target is the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox have a wealth of starters: Jake Peavy, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson. They also have Chris Sale, whom they use as a reliever, and Phil Humber, whom I’ve never imagined is much good but has managed to perform quite nicely so far.
In a column over at Baseball Prospectus yesterday, John Perrotto noted that the White Sox would listen to offers on Edwin Jackson. Jackson’s been passed around like a peace pipe over the course of his young career and is finally eligible for free agency after this season. Some fans wouldn’t mind seeing the Yankees take a stab at Jackson; some prefer Gavin Floyd; some prefer John Danks. I don’t know many who prefer Mark Buerhle, and personally I wouldn’t be happy at all to see him traded to the Yankees so I’ll simply avoid him for now. I also doubt the Yankees would be interested in Peavy or Humber. This leaves Floyd, Jackson and Danks. Who’s the preferable target?
Pros – Danks is a young lefty, only 26 years old. He has a decent strikeout rate (6.90 career K/9), a career FIP of 4.30 and xFIP of 4.00. He’s also 0-7 on the year. Why is this listed in as a Pro, you ask? Thank you for asking. Danks hasn’t pitched horribly on the year, although he hasn’t pitched as well as he has in the past, so more than likely the unsightly win-loss record isn’t really indicative of his true talent level or future expected performance. Which is to say that it’s possible that the White Sox are big fans of the W-L record as an evaluative tool, and it’s possible they’re undervaluing Danks. Another plus to Danks is his durability – he’s put up 600 innings over the past three years, so he appears to be a good bet to stay healthy and provide innings. Finally, he’s 6’6″, which I find cool.
Cons – His strikeout rate isn’t exactly elite – he’s failed to top 7 batters per nine innings the last 3 years in a row. His walk rate isn’t particularly sparkly either, so his K/BB ratio is somewhat middle of the road. He’s also not a giant groundball guy, contradicting an opinion I held about him for no good reason. In other words, the peripherals are good but not great, and he doesn’t keep the ball on the ground in a tremendous way.
Contract – Danks makes $6M in 2011, he’s eligible for arbitration again in 2012, and he becomes a free agent after the 2012 season. At the time of a potential trade you’re acquiring a year and a half of team control.
Pros – He’s put up a mid 7.5 K/9 three years running, and in each year he’s kept his walk rate below 3 batters per nine innings. He’s the owner of a 4.43 FIP lifetime, but has put together a 3.77, 3.46 and 3.44 FIP three years running. Quite simply, he’s a very solid mid-3 FIP pitcher with good control and above-average strikeout stuff. Better yet, we know that the Sox have been willing to listen on offers for Floyd as recently as November. It’s possible they don’t love him like they should.
Cons – He battled a hip injury in 2009 and a minor shoulder injury in 2010, although neither required him to spend time on the DL. He’s only topped 200 innings once in his career. And worst of all, he was a former member of the Philadelphia Phillies, a clear sign of moral weakness.
Contract – Floyd makes $5M in 2011, $7M in 2012, and has a club option for $9.5M in 2013. At the time of a potential trade the team is acquiring 1.5 years of control and a club option for another year.
Pros – He’s got a higher K rate than Floyd or Danks in 2010 and 2011, and he’s sporting a 3.24 FIP in 2011 following a 3.86 effort in 2010. He seems to be getting better, an entirely expected development considering he’s only 27 years old. He’s been around so long, and been traded to and from so many teams, that he likely feels older to most fans than he is. He also throws the ball very hard, consistently registering one of the fastest fastballs in baseball.
Cons – No one’s jumping up and down about that walk rate (~3.5 BB/9 at best), and while he’s sported a K rate over 7 per 9 the past two years, he has an average of 6.75 K/9 on his career.
Contract – Jackson makes $8.75M in 2011 and is a free agent after this season. He’d likely be the cheapest to acquire of all three.
It’s odd how similar these three pitchers are, to be frank. They all have career groundball rates around 43%, they all strike out 6 to 7 batters per nine innings, and they all have walk rates in the 2-3 batters per nine innings range. All things considered, Floyd probably ranks the most favorable trade target to me, despite my preconceived preference for Danks. Floyd’s really shown great control since 2009, and an acquiring team would get to keep him through 2012, provided he’s still healthy. Danks is still no slouch, and there’s probably a good case to be made that Danks will improve as he matures and gains more experience. A young, tall, durable lefty with good stuff isn’t anything to sneeze at. Yet, it would certainly be nice to see Danks improve his control. In Jackson there’s also an interesting question of projection – he has really good stuff, and he’s still young, despite spending a lot of time in the majors. Is he showing signs of maturation as a pitcher in the past two years? It would certainly seem that way, and as such Edwin Jackson wouldn’t be a bad target for the Yankees at all this summer.
All three of these pitchers would look nice in Yankee pinstripes this summer. It would be fantastic to see if Cashman could pull another Wilson Betemit deal with Kenny Williams and get an undervalued commodity with plenty of team control for low cost, but it’s extremely difficult to anticipate a move like that. For now I’ll continue to wish Jake Peavy well on his road to recovery and hope Ozzie Guillen has a fight with one of these three guys and runs them out of town all the way to the Bronx.
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.