Making Sense of Nonsense: Cubs sign Edwin Jackson

Last time baseball fans saw Anibal Sanchez he was a hard-luck loser in Game 2 of the World Series when he allowed two runs in seven innings of work. He posted a 1.77 ERA in three starts (20.1 innings in the postseason). And at five years and $77.5 million, Sanchez looked like a steal and a sturdy building block in the Cubs rotation.

 

As for Edwin Jackson, he was last seen in relief for the Washington Nationals, fueling the St. Louis Cardinals’ rally in Game 5 of the NLDS.

 

In a world where perception is reality, it did not come as a surprise when Cubs fans (myself included) were not pleased when I saw the Cubs were jockeying for his services.

 

After settling for a 1-year deal worth $11 million with the Nats last year, Edwin Jackson turned in a decent year (10-11, 4.03 ERA, 1.218 WHIP in 31 starts) and cashed out to a four-year deal with the Cubs worth $52 million.

 

A head scratcher? Not really. Between the lack of major league caliber arms at any level of the organization’s minor league affiliates and their pursuit of Sanchez, it should come to no shock that the Cubs were willing to shell out money for starting pitching.

 

Seriously, guys. The Cubs’ pitching prospects are so far away from competing for a roster spot, the team had to go out and sign Jackson, Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and might potentially add Carlos Villanueva.

 

Thanks a lot, Jim Hendry.

 

Speaking of Hendry, the 4-year, $52 million kept popping out at me and I wasn’t sure why until I realized that is what he gave Ryan Dempster after his 17-6 in a career year in 2008. That reminder gave me a bit of a fresh look on Jackson’s deal and made me look harder at what the Cubs were getting into with this move.

 

Can Jackson — at ages 29, 30, 31 & 32 — be as good as Dempster was from 2009-12 when he performed at ages 32, 33, 34 & 35?

 

Maybe. And while I apologize for being unable to give a definitive yes or no, at least we have an idea what we should be looking for, right?

 

So, what exactly are we looking for out of Mr. Jackson?

 

From 2009-12, Dempster went 48-43 with a 3.94 ERA and an ERA+ of 106. He logged at least 200 innings in the first three years of the deal and would have done so in 2012 had it not been for some nagging injuries. Hey! It happens when you’re 35.

 

Dempster averaged 8.2 strikeouts-per-nine, carried a 2.54 K/BB ratio, a 1.322 WHIP,3.2 BB/9,  8.7 H/9 and 1.0 HR/9. (127 starts)

 

Edwin Jackson’s numbers over that span: 49-41, 3.98 ERA and an ERA+ of 106. Jackson logged at least 200 innings in 2009 and 2010, threw 199 2/3 innings in 2011 and 189 2/3 in 2012.

 

Jackson also posted a 1.329 WHIP, 9.0 H/9, 1.0 HR/9, 3.0 BB/9, 7.3 K/9 & 2.46 K/BB with the Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals and Nationals.

 

Over those four years, Dempster made 127 starts. Jackson toed the rubber 128 times.

 

Long story, short: Edwin Jackson is the new Ryan Dempster.

 

I can live with that.

 

Remember kids. When it comes to moves made by the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer regime, one must keep in mind the long-term goals of the club.

 

MLB’s collective bargaining agreement shut out many of the loopholes Epstein used in Boston to make the Red Sox a developmental machine. Capped spending internationally. New rules on compensatory picks. Hard slotting and penalties for paying over slot in the draft.

 

Maybe the next big thing is acquiring good, but not great players and flip them for long-term assets? Maybe in lieu of paying extra for draft picks, the new market inequity is paying for MLB players for young, but still developing assets.

 

Who knows?

 

All I know is that the Cubs plan for developing pitching needs some time. And Jackson is a placeholder for the aforementioned developing pitchers and should eat enough innings until the time is right.

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