Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are entering their fourth offseason as head of the remodeled Cubs regime and to this point, they have made their overall plan clear: sustained success is built internally. For three years players have been recycled, rented, and re-signed in an effort to reach a competitive plateau where any kind of change means steps in the direction of a championship.
So far, so good in the eyes of many who have followed how the impressive duo have played the game off the field.
Unless you are completely oblivious of the Cubs’ offseason to this point, or you’re a pessimistic Sun-Times reader, the Lovable Losers are furnishing fans major hints of legitimate optimism heading into 2015 and beyond. One example is newly-hired manager Joe Maddon, who has had his fair share of success with a group of young overachievers. Not only did the Cubs acquire a top-five candidate in all of baseball to fill the position, but Epstein made it clear that he is willing to open the checkbook this offseason.
It may be safe to suggest that the whole “one step forward, two steps back” approach is finally over. There are reports linking several big-name free agents to the Cubs. Names like Jake Peavy, Jon Lester, and, most recently, Russell Martin. Whether or not we see any of the previously listed names in a Cubs uniform next year, one thing is certain: the goal of the 2015 Cubs is to compete.
Unfortunately, not all plans go accordingly and not every decision pans out suitably for all. The case of Edwin Jackson is a difficult one, and it can be said that his signing is a major blemish on the face of upper management.
The idea was a simple one back in 2012 when Jackson was signed to a four year, $52 million contract. The then 29-year-old was suited to be a consistent middle-of-the-rotation starter who could eat a good chunk of innings for a club that would likely see several changes to its rotation. Sadly, the hard-throwing right-hander proved to be anything but during his two year tenure with the Cubs.
Jackson’s swing-and-miss stuff is the reason so many teams have taken a chance on him in the past. There are times when he puts together seven inning performances in which he strikes out eight and scatters four hits. That Edwin Jackson makes people buy into the same thought Epstein had when he gave the journeyman a home for longer than two years.
Sadly, Edwin Jackson’s time as a Cub has been nothing short of a disaster. In 316 innings, Jackson accumulated a 5.58 ERA, a 1.541 WHIP, and a 4.09 FIP. These stats indicate that Jackson averaged just over five innings per start, he could not get hitters out, and he could not prevent the long ball. In 59 games as a Cub (58 starts) Jackson averaged 10.4 hits per nine innings. In the simplest and vague of terms, Edwin Jackson just could not figure it out.
So moving into a season that is expected to be competitive in the eyes of management, what is going to happen to Edwin Jackson? Frankly, there are three possible scenarios that could play out. The Cubs can keep him, trade him, or cut him and eat the remaining $22 mil left on his contract.
Let’s say they keep him. In this case Jackson has no guarantee that he owns a spot in the starting rotation come Opening Day. He would likely compete with the likes of Dan Straily, Tsuyoshi Wada, Felix Doubront, Kyle Hendricks, and Dallas Beeler, among others, for a vacant slot. A disadvantage for Jackson is his lack of consistency in the two failed years he’s been a Cub. It may be in the Cubs’ best interest to plug a starter with prior success in ahead of Jackson. It’s only fair in terms of production.
Another route they could take is to keep Jackson in the bullpen, but how valuable a commodity is he there? Carlos Villenueva bounced in and out of the starting rotation several times during his time with the Cubs and proved to be a nice safety blanket out of the pen when things turned ugly. There is value in a long relief pitcher, but Jackson’s lack of effectiveness makes him a tough sell anywhere at this point. It should be noted that Jackson has made the majority of his appearances as a starter.
Could the Cubs trade Jackson? Well, it would be difficult to find a trade partner willing to take on the contract and the talent. If the Cubs do actually find a match, its likely that Epstein and company may have to eat some of the money regardless the offer.
Maybe the Royals can be a team of interest. James Shields is headed to free agency and Kansas City is in a position to replace their former big time innings eater. There is something of value with a right hander that managed to total nearly eight strikeouts per nine innings pitched in 2014. Edwin Jackson is your guy, Kansas City! Or anyone for that matter. Take him. Please. Maybe Cleveland as well?
Sounds like Tribe may have interest in EJax in possible salary swap.
— TomLoxas (@TomLoxas) November 5, 2014
A straight salary swap does sound risky and from the looks of it, a name that matches close to Jackson’s current contract is Nick Swisher. If that’s the case, even if it means getting rid of E-Jax, then no thank you.
Last but not certainly least, the Cubs can just straight up cut the 31-year-old and eat the money. The team could view it as a learning experience during a time when winning wasn’t really a big deal anyway. Maybe the Cubs are in a better position now, even though Edwin Jackson didn’t pitch like the front office intended. Maybe Jackson’s constant struggle on the mound brought the Cubs closer to a World Series in a dark and sad kind of way.
All joking aside, everything about Edwin Jackson’s time in Chicago can be compared to a train wreck. In no way was failing to go three innings in a start, or giving up multiple first-inning runs, or throwing wild pitch after wild pitch is a positive. It was all bad and the Cubs don’t want to be associated with bad anymore.
This offseason presents an opportunity for the Cubs to slingshot themselves into playoff contention sooner rather than later. They may not be all the way there yet, but if Edwin Jackson finds his way to a Wrigley mound again, it should be in a different uniform.