Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 2/2/12

Well, it looks like we finally have an aggressive suitor for Edwin Jackson. Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Nationals are trying to trade John Lannan – who just lost his arbitration case and will earn $5 million in 2012 – in order to clear salary to make a run at signing Jackson.

If the Nationals can pull this off, it’d be a pretty neat trick. When you look at Lannan and Jackson side by side, this would be a pretty massive improvement for the team. Over the last three seasons, Jackson has posted an ERA- of 93, supported by quality peripherals, while Lannan has posted an ERA- of 101, a good bit better than his FIP/xFIP would suggest is sustainable. Jackson’s also thrown an additional 100 innings, so he’s provided better performance in a larger sample.

Even if you think Lannan possesses an ability to regularly beat his FIP, Jackson is roughly a +1 win upgrade. If you think that Lannan is about to run out of pixie dust and his run prevention is due for a regression, the upgrade is more like +2 wins. Given that the Nationals are on the contender-or-not bubble, those wins could have a lot of value to the team, and swapping out Lannan for Jackson would be a no-brainer.

The tough part might be finding someone who wants to take Lannan off their hands at this point in the off-season. Most teams are shopping in the bargain bin now, and there aren’t many clubs left with much in the way of budget room. They probably could have moved him a few months ago, but salary dumps in February aren’t easy. It’s an idea worth trying, but they might have to eat a little bit of money in order to convince someone to take him.

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