Edwin Jackson May Provide a Solid Option for the New York Yankees

By Craig Williams

Word on the street is that the New York Yankees will fall short in the Yu Darvish sweepstakes.  I want to hold out hope that everything being rumored at this point ends up holding no weight.  I’ve been telling myself that nobody has any concrete information yet and that the New York Yankees could still be right in the thick of the mix.  I think that is just me going through the denial phase though.  There is a significant chance that somebody else put in the winning bid for the Japanese star.  If that is the case, the New York Yankees will need to find other ways to address their starting rotation.  They remain interested in Hiroki Kuroda, but I think Edwin Jackson deserves a long look.

The biggest obstacle standing between Jackson and a new team may be his agent, Scott Boras.  Before I move on, let me clarify.  I don’t say that to mean that Boras is a lousy agent whose incompetence is going to make work difficult for Jackson to find.  It’s quite the opposite.  As we all know, Boras is a beast and frequently lands ridiculously player friendly deals for his clients.  Is Jackson worth the contract that Boras is going to eventually land for him though?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  The Yankees should place a few calls anyway.

Even though Jackson has shown consistent WAR totals (according to Fangraphs) of 3.8, 3.8 and 3.6 over the past three seasons, he has some A.J. Burnett in him as he’ll go through feast or famine stretches.  Despite the negatives, I’m still drinking the Kool-Aid.  It all starts with his stuff.  Over the past three seasons his average fastball velocity has pretty much sat at 94.5 mph.  He backs that up with a sometimes filthy slider that clocks in at 87 mph on average.  It is tough to understand why he hasn’t achieved more success with the raw stuff that he has.  Maybe its the lack of a reliable third pitch (he throws a curve and a change-up, but each accounts for fewer than 10% of his offerings) or maybe its something else.

Adding or increasing the usage of a third pitch is not something that is easy to do.  We have seen Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett struggle to develop their change-up into a reliable weapon, but that does not necessarily mean that Jackson is destined for the same.  Like I mentioned in the paragraph above, maybe it is something else, something intangible holding Jackson back from stardom.  Take a guy like Jason Schmidt for example.  He came up as a prospect in the Atlanta Braves organization with some fanfare, but it wasn’t until the second half of his age-28 season that he started to put his game together.  All he did the next three years was dominate the National League.  I’m not saying that Jackson is the next Jason Schmidt, but there is precedent for talented starting pitchers to under-perform until something just clicks.

At his current performance level, Jackson could easily slot into the No. 3 slot of the Yankees rotation while offering the potential to move up the pecking order.  He’s had a lot of pitching coaches to work with in his young career so I recognize its a bit on the hopeful side for me to think that Larry Rothschild holds the key to unlock his full upside.  He is known for leading pitching staffs that often finish at or near the top of the league in strikeouts.  Sure, a lot of that is personnel, but the same way a Dave Duncan or Rick Anderson can emphasize pitching to contact, Rothschild can put an emphasis on strikeouts.  Rothschild’s presence is another reason why I think it could be worth bringing the 28 year old into the mix – or at least rotating the tires on the idea.

The window remains cracked for the in the Yu Darvish chase and the trade market could still be explored.  If those avenues come up empty, Edwin Jackson may be an option with some upside that may look good in New York Yankees pinstripes.

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