Edwin Jackson is easily one of the most mysterious pitchers in all of baseball. Blessed with a fantastic right arm, Jackson was thought of a big time prospect in the Dodgers system when he broke into major league baseball with the Dodgers as a 19 year old. His mid 90′s heaters and hard sliders have tantalized those that watch him. When Jackson is on, he can dominate, as we all saw in the first half of 2009 in Detroit. He can be so dominant, he even has a no-hitter to his credit, even if it wasn’t the prettiest one around.
Yet this guy gets traded more than a stock on the New York Stock Exchange. That’s not necessarily an indictment on Edwin Jackson or his talent. If he wants to take a positive look at it, it is just that he is a wanted commodity. So much so, he has been traded four (technically 5) times in the past three seasons. That borders on the ridiculous.
This off-season, Edwin Jackson is going to have the opportunity to find a more permanent home when he is done pitching in the World Series for the Cardinals. He is a free agent, and for a guy that has moved around like him, it has to be exciting to finally be able to pick his destination, instead of always keeping a month-to-month lease. The good thing for Jackson is the market should be plenty big for him.
So what is Edwin Jackson’s next franchise going to get?
His numbers show a solid pitcher who in the right situation could end up being a bargain. In 2011, Jackson had a 3.79 ERA for the White Sox and the Cardinals. In the past three seasons, Jackson has been above average in value accumulating at least 3.6 WAR, and has 3.8 the past two seasons. The guy that has been inconsistent from start to start, has begun to become remarkably consistent over the long haul of a season. Jackson will give his next team something that I believe is underrated in today’s game, a workhorse. Jackson is a 200 inning guy every year the past three seasons, often getting stronger as he goes deeper into games. His ERA was a little over 3.00 from the 4th inning on.
Now, Jackson is perfect for the middle of any teams rotation, but I am not suggesting he make a return to the Tigers to pitch for them. He is too much like Detroit’s own Max Scherzer who he was traded for before the 2010 season. Jackson will have high pitch counts, because his command isn’t great, but he can flat out dominate on any given day. He probably will continue to struggle with consistency throughout his career, keeping him from being the ace that was envisioned when he was a youngster in the Dodgers system. Depending on the interested teams needs, Jackson has some versatility to where he fits in the rotation. His being a workhorse could lend him to being a leader for a young staff. His ERA and ability lend him to being a solid #2, and his inconsistency makes him a #3 most of the time, albeit one that is more talented than most at that spot.
So where is the best fit?
Since Jackson is a middle of the rotation guy at least in a slim free agent market this off-season, he is going to get paid regardless of where he goes. Personally, I think his best options reside in the small to mid market teams where there is the biggest need. Teams like the Royals, Pirates and Marlins are going to be looking for a guy in his prime (28 years old) to either anchor the staff, or be a Robin to someone’s Batman. The Chicago Cubs, Orioles, Cardinals, and Mets wouldn’t surprise me either as they have better financial resources and are willing to use them.
I think a team with a big outfield should take a long look, because the bigger the park, the better for Jackson. Jackson has gotten hurt over his career giving up the home run. Even though he has gotten more ground balls the past couple of years, he is still prone to fly balls. Looking at his splits over his career, Jackson does pretty well in some of the parks of the teams I have mentioned. He does well in Kaufman (Royals), PNC (Pirates), and Dolphin Stadium (Marlins). Those would all be good situations for Jackson, as would pitching for Oakland, Seattle, Minnesota, San Diego and San Francisco.
But I think the best fit for Jackson resides with the Texas Rangers. Yes, balls do fly out of that park in Arlington, however, Jackson has had some moderate success there with a career 3.25 ERA there. Not only that, Texas would be able to afford a decent contract for Jackson, and he wouldn’t have to be the man on that staff necessarily. His talents would fit in nicely with Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Colby Lewis and potentially Neftali Feliz. He also would get more run support with the Rangers than he would from a team like Oakland or Seattle. Jackson also pitches well against the A.L West opponents of Texas, and he would have the benefit of throwing in those pitcher friendly parks. And lastly, the bonus for Jackson would be that he is pitching for a winner.
It will be interesting to see where Edwin Jackson lands. He deserves a permanent home for a change, even if it has been his talent that has made him a sizzling commodity in the trade market. I just prefer it be somewhere outside the A.L. Central, because if he learns to be more consistent from start to start, then he is going to be one heck of a tough pitcher to face.