Things are pretty quiet on the free agent market right now. A lot of the big names around the game have signed, and teams are now working on filling their organizational holes with depth players and minor league free agent signings. Of the remaining free agents, there aren’t very many that make sense for the Tigers, both in the position they play and how much money they would command. This point was echoed earlier, in John Verburg’s article. However, a name that has gone under the radar this offseason is Edwin Jackson, and he could be just what the Tigers need.
As a former top prospect, Edwin Jackson has always oozed with potential. For one reason or another though, he has never been able to settle down and find a home for longer than a couple of seasons. In fact, he has been on five teams since 2008. That isn’t to say he’s not a good pitcher, but he’s a tradable commodity; an innings eater who puts up good but not great numbers, and is young. He’s enjoyed solid success in his last few seasons, posting ERA+, or how well he does compared to the rest of the league, of 106, 95, 126 respectively, while throwing ~200 (199.2 last season) innings every year.
Jackson’s peripherals look strong as well, averaging around ~7 K/9 and 3 BB/9 in the last three seasons. And, while his ERA’s have fluctuated, his FIP has actually gone down in the last three seasons, going from 4.28 in 2009, to 3.86 in 2010, to 3.55 in 2011. He’s also put up WAR of 3.6, 3.8, and 3.8 during this time frame, which ranks him 20th overall for starting pitchers since 2009, at 11.2 WAR.
The question remains though, why is Jackson’s market so soft? As a 28 year old pitcher, who should post 3+ WAR seasons for the duration of any reasonable contract, why isn’t Jackson a more sought after commodity? Honestly, that’s a very good question, one that I am not sure of the answer. A comparable arm, John Danks, just signed a 5 year 65MM extension with the white sox. As free agency continues on into January, it doesn’t seem like that type of money is in the cards for Jackson, which plays perfectly into the hands of the Tigers.
If Edwin’s price comes down, maybe to 3/36MM, he could be an absolute steal for the Tigers. It would provide them with some of the best rotational depth in the majors, and provide them with a bevy of options and scenarios. It’d allow youngsters Drew Smyly and Jacob Turner to percolate in the minor leagues, while also opening up the possibility for a trade from the big club. How would that fit into the budget? Actually, it wouldn’t raise payroll all that much.
For example, if the Tigers signed Edwin for 12MM a year, and traded a young arm like Scherzer or Porcello for a young, cost controlled outfielder, that could alleviate 4MM, or the amount that Porcello or Scherzer are going to make for the upcoming season. As an aside, they’d save the ~6MM that the team would have to pay Delmon Young, by either signing and trading him, or just letting him go all together. If you’re counting at home, that’s 10MM saved from the current budget, and 12MM spent, so only an increase of 2MM or so. This makes even more sense to do midseason, when one of the youngsters are ready to step in and take hold of the 5th starter role.
Overall, a guy like Edwin Jackson, if obtained for the right price, could add a boatload of flexibility for the Tigers in the coming years. He would give the team gluttony of major league ready pitching, which, as everyone has seen in the recent weeks, is like gold on the trade market. One of the Tigers young arms would bring back a young positional player or two, which is a much better option than attempting to bring someone in through free agency. This move could definitely pay off for the Tigers, and if they don’t obtain Yoennis Cespedes, it’s something that may be looked in to.