Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors looked at Edwin Jackson’s upcoming free agency, following his poor start in the World Series last night. Dierkes speculated that the Yankees and Red Sox won’t be suitors for Jackson in the off-season, and listed the Pittsburgh Pirates as one of the teams that could be matches for Jackson.
Dierkes noted Jackson’s inconsistent play over the last few years, and how he’s moved around so much (he’s played for five teams in the last four years). Jackson had a breakout year in 2009, with a 3.62 ERA in 214 innings, along with a 6.8 K/9, a 2.9 BB/9, and a 1.1 HR/9. He went to Arizona the following year in the three team trade that sent Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees. While in Arizona, Jackson struggled with a 5.16 ERA in 134.1 innings. He was later traded to the Chicago White Sox, where he turned things around with a 3.24 ERA in 75 innings, along with a 9.2 K/9, a 2.2 BB/9, and a 1.0 HR/9.
This year Jackson started off in Chicago, with a 3.92 ERA in 121.2 innings, and good ratios, posting a 7.2 K/9, a 2.9 BB/9, and a 0.6 HR/9. He was traded to St. Louis in another three team deal that sent Colby Rasmus to Toronto. With the Cardinals, he put up a 3.58 ERA in 78 innings, with a 5.9 K/9, a 2.7 BB/9, and a 0.9 HR/9. Outside of his time with Arizona, Jackson’s numbers the last three years have been fairly consistent, with a walk rate around a 3.0 BB/9, a home run rate around 1.0 HR/9, and a strikeout rate around a 7.0 K/9.
I looked at the free agent starting pitchers last week, and noted Jackson as a guy who would be an upgrade over Paul Maholm. However, I didn’t see the Pirates as contenders for his service, since there will likely be plenty of options to choose from, with some options having more money to spend, and some options having a more desirable team to play for in the short term. Dierkes mentioned that Scott Boras – Jackson’s agent – would likely be seeking a long term deal, with around four years, due to Jackson’s age of 28. I think the only chance the Pirates would have is offering more years than anyone else. That might be a risk, as any long term deal with a pitcher could be due to injuries or inconsistent performances. That said, I’ve seen a lot of people suggesting a three year deal for Paul Maholm, who is two years older than Jackson. I can’t imagine a four year deal to Jackson would be opposed by the people who want Maholm back on a multi-year deal. Whether the Pirates would be willing to give Jackson that long of a deal is another story.
Overall it seems like Jackson is a bit under-valued. In the last three years he has put up a combined 7.1 K/9, a 3.0 BB/9, and a 0.9 HR/9. He has a 4.03 xFIP in that time span. He’s not an ace, but he’s a solid pitcher, and his young age would give him a better chance of maintaining his success going forward, compared to someone like Joel Pineiro or Chris Capuano, who have similar xFIPs over the last three years.