Edwin Jackson, the last major free agent, signed a one-year contract with the Washington Nationals last week. The move makes some sense, but at the same time doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I wrote a piece at the beginning of the off-season, about why Edwin Jackson was the best (value) starting pitcher on the market. So obviously I think the Nationals made the right move in signing him, he’ll be worth the $9-12 million (exact details won’t be released until he has had his physical) they’re paying him. Washington was already an interesting team going into 2012, and the addition of Jackson makes them all the more interesting.
Jackson has been extremely consistent over the last three seasons; however, his consistency on the diamond hasn’t led to a consistent home. The Nationals will be his 8th franchise in the last ten seasons and fifth in the last three years (if you count his small stay as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise). Over the last three seasons Jackson has averaged 11.66 wins, 207.66 innings, a FIP- of 92, and an fWAR of 3.73. The Nationals should expect about those same numbers from Jackson this season, which would be a very solid year, and worth the amount of money they’re spending on him. Jackson should be worth between $15 and $17 million next season (if you value one win above replacement at $5 million).
The Nationals rotation will now consist of Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jackson, and John Lannan. That’s a very good rotation, maybe not as good as the rotations of division rivals Atlanta and Philadelphia, but an argument can be made for the Nationals' rotation being among the best in the National league. You add in the fact that Bryce Harper is coming up the ranks, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman could bounce back, the back-end of their bullpen consists of Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Brad Lidge, and there may be a contending team in DC. Washington’s division is tough, but the Central is weaker (without Pujols or Fielder), and the West is also not very strong, so if Bud Selig succeeds in adding a second Wild Card team for 2012, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Washington competing for that final playoff spot.
Washington didn’t overpay for Jackson, and have made serious acquisitions to move them closer to contention right now and for the future. My only confusion with this move is why it was only for one season. The Nationals have Strasburg, Werth, Harper, Gonzalez, and both Zimmerman(n)’s locked up beyond 2012, so why didn’t they sign the 28 year-old righty in Jackson for a longer period of time? The answer is that Jackson and his agent Scott Boras asked for a one-year deal so Jackson can again test the free agent waters next season, and quite frankly this strategy makes no sense. This off-season’s class of starting pitchers was below average, with CJ Wilson as the number 1 free agent starter (Yu Darvish wasn’t truly a free agent). Next years crop of starters could make the market worse for Jackson than it was this season, regardless of his 2012 performance. Potential free agent starters include Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Anibal Sanchez, Zack Greinke, Brandon McCarthy, and Shaun Marcum.
The Nationals and Jackson would have been smarter to agree on a three-year deal, because that would’ve been more beneficial for both parties. But Jackson is only signed for a year and we’ll see what kind of deal Boras can get him next off-season, there’s a good chance that, in 2013, Jackson will be playing for his 9th franchise, which is unbelievable for such a young pitcher with such a solid track record of consistency.