One of the bigger surprises of the 2012-13 MLB offseason came when the Chicago Cubs gave a four-year, $52 million contract to Edwin Jackson. It’s the eighth stop for the 29-year-old journeyman pitcher. He spent 2012 with the Washington Nationals. He had a 4.03 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.
This move was made in an attempt to bolster the depth of the starting rotation. What made it surprising was that the Cubs spent $13 million per season to a starting pitcher who has played for six different organizations since 2008. Only once has he posted an ERA below 3.62 and WHIP below 1.26. He has a career 4.40 ERA with a 1.44 WHIP.
Let’s compare that to John Lannan, who signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies this offseason. At age 28, Lannan has a career 4.01 ERA with a 1.42 WHIP. He’s a left-handed pitcher.
For a team that has been penny-pinching during the first couple seasons of their rebuild, it was surprising to see such an investment made for Jackson. Do Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer know something that those other seven teams don’t? Do they have the secret recipe to help him establish consistency? What made Jackson so special that he merited a $13 million investment for the next four seasons?
Starting on Opening Day 2013, Jackson can make a difference. With injuries to Matt Garza and Scott Baker, Jackson has been promoted as the No. 2 pitcher in a starting rotation that includes Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva. Barring injuries, they’ll handle most of a stretch that includes 32 games in 33 days. That’s from Apr. 3 through May 5.
If the Cubs are to avoid getting sunk into the National League Central cellar before early May, they need Jackson to get off to a fast start. Injuries have depleted all of their depth. If anyone struggles, the Cubs would either have to put up with it or consider options in their farm system. Those include Chris Rusin and Casey Coleman.
It’s time for Jackson to earn that $13 million payday. And for the Cubs sake, Jackson had better start earning it on Apr. 3.