Merry Christmas, Chicago Cubs faithful. Did Santa Claus crash his sleigh as he was delivering your team’s gifts?
The Cubs have stockpiled pitchers, many of whom are coming off arm injuries. Matt Garza had an elbow injury. Scott Baker had Tommy John surgery. Chang-Yong Lim had his second Tommy John surgery. The 36-year-old international pitcher may not pitch again until 2014.
But wait! See that one last present under the tree? Meet Edwin Jackson. Jackson reportedly agreed to a four-year, $52-million contract. That’s a decent chunk of dough for a player who’s expected as the No. 3 pitcher behind Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. Consider this the big-splash signing from Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
The 29-year-old has developed a reputation as a journeyman pitcher who is an innings eater. He spent the 2012 season as the Washington Nationals’ No. 4 pitcher. In 31 starts, Jackson had a 10-11 record with a 4.03 ERA. This deals comes a few hours after Carlos Villanueva agreed to a two-year deal.
Here’s a brief look at some pitchers who will compete for starting jobs in 2013.
Edwin Jackson: four-year, $52 million
Scott Feldman: one-year, $6 million
Scott Baker: one-year, $5.5 million
Carlos Villanueva: two-year, $10 million
Matt Garza: (Made $9.5 million in 2012, salary arbitration in 2013)
Jeff Samardzija: (Made $2.64 million in 2012, salary arbitration in 2013)
Travis Wood: (Made $505,000 in 2012)
These seven pitchers could make the 2013 Opening Day starting rotation. A traditional starting rotation has five pitchers. A spot starter is normally kept in the bullpen. Other starters are typically transformed into relievers or kept at Triple-A.
Barring trades, it’s safe to assume that Jackson will join Garza and Samardzija as locks for the starting rotation. Even if Arodys Vizcaino is ready to pitch, he’ll start the season at Triple-A Iowa.
Two starting jobs are available. The candidates for those jobs: Feldman, Baker, Villanueva and Wood. Save one of those two pitchers as a spot starter. The other pitcher will either get demoted to Triple-A Iowa or he’ll move to the bullpen.
Who will get left out of the rotation? In September, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reported that Wood was a lock to make the 2013 rotation. Dale Sveum reportedly made the following comment:
“He’s positioned himself as one of our starters [for 2013]. He’s made strides to learn how to pitch completely different than he ever has, and it’s made him able to survive and have some really good games. … He’s coming, and it’s been an adjustment, but I think he’s done a pretty good job, too.”
Will Sveum remain true to his word? Will this franchise pay $5 million or more for a swingman, middle reliever, or insurance policy at Triple-A Iowa? Financially, Wood is the only player who makes sense for a demotion. The Cubs could use him in middle relief (e.g. Sean Marshall). Or maybe they’re preparing to trade Garza.
For how much it cost, Jackson’s deal seems unnecessary. Earlier this month, John Lannan signed a one-year, $2.5-million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. Lannan has a career 4.01 ERA with a 1.42 WHIP. Compare that to Jackson, who has a career 4.40 ERA and 1.44 WHIP.
But those are career numbers. Jackson was rushed to MLB as a 20-year-old. At this stage of their careers, maybe Jackson is the better pitcher. But is he more than $10 million per season better?
Time will tell. But this should help the team in 2013. The combination of Villanueva and Jackson ($62 million) is nicer than just Anibal Sanchez ($80 million).
Joshua Huffman grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as a Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs enthusiast. He immediately gained an admiration for Cubs fans after watching numerous games on WGN during the mid-90s. His favorite Cubs moment was Kerry Wood’s(notes) 1-hitter, 20K extravaganza that was only denied of a no-hitter by Kevin Orie’s defensive blunder. As a Packers and Cubs fan, he suffered through Steve Bartman and “4th & 26” in a span of three months. Twitter HERE.
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