Should Cubs Give Edwin Jackson Four Years?

Edwin Jackson’s career has always been an enigma to me.

On one hand his career stats seem to indicate he’s a slightly above average starting pitcher. On the other, Jackson’s been traded six times before he’s turned 30.

Jackson is durable, an innings eater and an All Star. He’s reached two World Series, won one, and pitched for a team with the major’s best regular-season record as recently as last year.

Yet, not a single one of his previous employers locked him up with a long-term contract, or valued him as a franchise player. How come?

Because Jackson isn’t a difference-maker in a competitive rotation. Jackson, it seems, has been more coveted by opposing teams than he has by his very own, and the love fest with Jackson seems to rub off rather quickly.

That’s why I’m surprised to see the Cubs offering something in the neighborhood of the reported 4-year, $52M contract Jackson is seeking this offseason. Has he really been that undervalued?

That’s not to say Jackson wouldn’t improve the Cubs. This is, after all, a 101-loss team. Plus, you can never have too much starting pitching.

Pair Jackson up with the Cubs’ current stock of starting pitching, including the recently signed Carlos Villanueva (2-yr, $10M), and it’s a formidable rotation heading into 2013.

Not to mention, the Cubs still appear to be entertaining the idea of trading one of their best pitchers in Matt Garza; for what we can’t necessarily assume will be major league ready pitcher(s) at the time of arrival.

Jackson could bridge that gap and add real value to the Cubs in the short-term. But four years isn’t a short-term deal. In fact, it’s the additional two years of the contract that actually concerns me more than the money.

From the Cubs’ perspective I’d like to see Jackson on a 2-year deal. A contract which would enable him to help the Cubs during the early stages of the rebuild, but wouldn’t tie up roughly $26M when the team is looking to make hay in 2015.

Fortunately for Jackson, he’s in the position of leverage; not the other way around. The starting pitching market is thin, he’s still in his prime, 29, and it’s likely he’ll get the four-year deal he’s coveting.

That said, is spending roughly $52M over four years on a slightly above average pitcher a wise investment for the Cubs? Couldn’t that money be better spent on a highly-prized hurler through trade of free agency when the Cubs are actually fielding a more competitive team?

I think so, and my gut feeling concurs.

Now, will I be upset if the Cubs land Jackson? Of course not. But interestingly, Jackson would be the first offseason move by the Cubs I wouldn’t fully understand, even though he would arguably be the most talented player the Cubs landed this winter.

Of course given the Cubs’ resistance to including no-trade clauses in contracts, it’s possible the always tradeable Jackson could be dealt after two, or even three seasons on the North Side.

It seems that’s a bridge the Cubs are willing to cross with Jackson. And according to the morning reports via online and Twitter, it appears both sides are coming close to a deal; and a little too close if you ask me.


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