Cubs send message in signing Edwin Jackson

Cubs send message in signing Edwin Jackson
December 20, 2012, 8:59 pm
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We interrupt all the drama surrounding the Bears at Halas Hall and Jabari Parkers episode of The Decision.
The Cubs have just sent a message to the citys skeptical press corps and fan base: Theyre willing to spend big on free agents again.
It just had to be the right player. Remaking their rotation, the Cubs signed Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva on Thursday, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. Both deals are pending physicals, and neither contains a no-trade clause, per club policy.
In essence, Jackson represents the first big-time free agent to sign up for team president Theo Epsteins rebuilding project. But given the way the price of pitching has skyrocketed, the Cubs are no doubt hoping that Jacksons four-year, 52 million deal looks reasonable as more television money pours into the game.
This comes one week after Epstein and chairman Tom Ricketts met with Anibal Sanchez and his people in Miami before the Detroit Tigers finally realized the Cubs were actually serious and stepped up with a five-year, 80 million offer.
The Cubs werent crushed when they found out that Sanchez had decided to chase a World Series ring in Detroit. Its not unreasonable to think that Jackson who turned 29 in September could wind up being a better investment.
The career numbers arent off the charts (70-71 with a 4.40 ERA), but Jackson did develop into an All-Star with the Tigers in 2009 before earning a World Series ring with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011.
One game might sum up Jacksons mix of potential, strength and inconsistency: He managed to throw a no-hitter for the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 25, 2010 inside Tropicana Field, despite walking the Tampa Bay Rays eight times. He struck out six and pushed himself to 149 pitches.
A few weeks later, Arizona traded Jackson to the White Sox in the Daniel Hudson deal, so he knows the city, and how to adjust to a new environment.
Jacksons father, Edwin Sr., retired as a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army. The son was born in West Germany and went to high school in Columbus, Ga. The Los Angeles Dodgers actually took him as an outfielder in the sixth round of the 2001 draft before fully realizing whats in his right arm.
The Cubs appear to be betting that staying in one place will help, that manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio can get Jackson to pitch to a game plan and tap into all that potential.
This is a power arm. Only seven pitchers in the majors averaged a higher velocity with their fastball than Jackson (93.5 mph) last season, according to the online database at Fangraphs: David Price; Jeff Samardzija; Matt Moore; Justin Verlander; Max Scherzer; Jordan Zimmerman; and Edinson Volquez.
People whove been around Jackson say hes a good clubhouse presence, suggesting that being traded six times doesnt mean hes a problem child. Its more that the stuff is so intriguing, and pitchers who can throw 200 innings dont come cheap.
The Cubs are willing to pay that price. Jackson accepted a one-year, 11 million pillow contract from the Washington Nationals last winter and parted ways with super-agent Scott Boras during the middle of a season in which he went 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA for a 98-win team.
The last time Jackson didnt make at least 31 starts was 2006. This is a sturdy piece to slide into the rotation alongside Samardzija.
The Cubs are hoping for full recoveries from Matt Garza (elbow) and Scott Baker (Tommy John surgery) by April. Arodys Vizcaino will take it slow in his Tommy John rehab, with projections putting him in the big leagues sometime in 2013. But they wont have to rush anyone with the depth provided by Villanueva, Scott Feldman and Travis Wood.
Sources indicated Villanueva has agreed to a two-year, 10 million contract. The 29-year-old right-hander has been a swingman with the Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers (33-35, 4.26 ERA). There were signs that the Cubs could just continue making those kinds of modest moves.
In what seemed to be turning into a running joke on Twitter, Garza had been burned welcoming Dan Haren and getting his hopes up for Sanchez when he thought those pitchers were coming to the North Side.
So Garza must have enjoyed posting this message on Thursday for his former teammate in Tampa Bay: Like I said last night, EJax is my boy! I heard it from a cubs horse last night!! That horse being EJax! Nice to have another in the stable!
This doesnt completely accelerate Epsteins timetable. The Sanchez deal was outlined with 2015 in mind. Jackson is still young enough that he can be a factor when the Cubs project theyll really start being contenders. But this at least makes the next two bridge years more interesting.
On a day where Simeons high school star announced hes going to Duke University, and it continued to be the Bears against the world, the Cubs made you pay attention.