November 28, 2020

UPDATED: Nationals sign free agent starter Edwin Jackson to one-year deal

The Washington Nationals today signed right-handed free agent starting pitcher Edwin Jackson to a one-year deal.  Terms were not annouced, but the figure was reported to be around $10 million, according to several reports.

Jackson, 28, will play with his seventh Major League team in his 10th big league season.  For his career, he is 60-60 with a 4.46 ERA, 1.476 WHIP, 3.7 BB/9 and 6.7 K/9.  Last season, split between the Cardinals and White Sox, Jackson went 12-9, 3.79, 1.437, 2.8 and 6.7.  He was an All-Star in 2009 with the Detroit Tigers, going 13-9, 3.62, 1.262, 2.9 and 6.8.

“We saw an opportunity here to acquire a young, hard-throwing, power-pitching, innings-eating type of starting pitcher,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters on a conference call Thursday, “and we thought it was a good value, at a good term and you can never have enough good quality starting pitching.”

Jackson was one of the highest profile free agents left on the market, and Rizzo said the team started discussions with Jackson’s representitive (Scott Boras, of course) about 10 days ago. “When he came to a possible shorter-term deal, a one-year deal, he made it much more palatable for us,” Rizzo explained.  “And when we recognized that on a one-year deal at the term and the value of this pitcher, [the deal] was too good to pass up and we thought it improved our club immensely.”

Jackson has a big fastball, which averaged 94.7 in 2011 (fifth best among qualifiers) according to Fangraphs, but always struggled with his command.  Last season, though, his walk ratio of 7.2 percent of all at-bats was the lowest of his entire career, including his All-Star year.

Rizzo noted that the Nats think they can lower that number even further, noting a mechanical flaw in his delivery from the wind-up that causes his number across the board to weaken.  In his career with the bases empty, Jackson pitches to a .289/.361/.440 split.  When runners are on base, however, he lowers those numbers to .259/.327/.415.

Jackson joins an already deep MLB rotation with the Nationals.  Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann sit atop that rotation obviously, with Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan (who lost to the Nats in his arbitration hearing and will make $5 million in 2012), and Ross Detwiler all now competing for one spot, unless a trade reduces the competition.

Almost as soon as the Nats released Lannan’s arbitration decision, rumors of the Nats shopping Lannan emerged from credible sources.  It’s not a difficult leap to make.  Lannan, 27, went 10-13 with a 3.70 ERA last season for the Nats, but with a $5 million arbitration award today and one more arbitration year, it seems his spot in the rotation for the last four seasons — along with his salary — needs to be shed to accommodate Jackson.

Lannan could be part of a package to attain that ever-elusive center fielder Rizzo has coveted since he took over as GM of the Nats, but Rizzo didn’t seem in a hurry to move Lannan.  “We’re certainly always open to a deal that makes sense for us, and if it can improve the ballclub,” Rizzo explained.  “We did not acquire Edwin Jackson to trade another starting pitcher. If in Spring Training, or before Spring Training a deal comes up that we can’t pass up that positively impacts our ballclub we’ll definitely be open-minded about it.”

But the Nats’ GM also boasted about the depth on the Major League club of starting pitching.

“We know that we have depth in the rotation,” the general manager said, “We have good, quality, hard-throwing power pitchers that we’re going to go to camp with and if all are healthy and we have an opportunity to make a trade to improve ourselves somewhere else we’ll certainly look into it, but I like the competition aspect of this and there’s going to be a lot of good pitchers out there in Spring Training this year and the best twenty-five guys will go north.”

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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