Washington Nationals sign Edwin Jackson


The wait is finally over, and a team has finally capitalized on the undervalued Edwin Jackson. Jon Heyman tweeted that the Washington Nationals have signed Edwin Jackson to a one-year deal worth anywhere from $8 to $12 million, and that is less than Jackson’s true value. He is one of the better starting pitchers in baseball and has been worth over 3.5 WAR during each of the past three seasons. He was worth exactly 3.8 WAR in 2010 and 2011 and was one of the top 30 pitchers in WAR last season. It is surprising that Jackson has lasted this long in free agency, and early rumors that he would end up with a one-year deal have been proven correct.

The Boston Red Sox were in the mix for Edwin Jackson at first, but reports said that they were more interested in saving their money for the trade deadline. Another report has stated that the Red Sox are done trying to acquire a starting pitcher, and all the money saved from the Marco Scutaro trade will be used at the deadline.

Earlier this offseason, the Miami Marlins signed Jackson’s former teammate Mark Buehrle to a four-year $58 million contract. At the start of Opening Day, Buehrle will be five years older than Jackson and has been worth 0.7 WAR less than him in the past three seasons. Buehrle was snatched up much earlier in the offseason, and Jackson’s reputation has hurt his stock to unnecessary proportions.

It’s crazy how a 3.8 WAR pitcher is signed to a $10 million dollar deal and is valued as a 2.5 WAR player in his contract, when pitchers who are worse than him are being paid far more. He is a 28-year-old pitcher in his prime who is on a one-year deal and is being treated like a 33-year-old, 2.5 WAR vet. Whereas Mark Buehrle is about to be 33 and will receive four years and over $50 million overall. This is a reputation game, and Edwin Jackson’s mercurial reputation has costed him $5 million per year.

Next season, Jackson should be a 3.5 WAR pitcher after a 3.55 FIP campaign in 2011. His peripherals aren’t great, but Jackson’s career-best 2011 season had some bad luck involved. He has a career .311 BABIP against, but his .330 BABIP against last season was bloated, and he allowed a line drive against a quarter of the batters he faced. That trend is unlikely to continue in 2012, so expect Jackson to be worth what he was in 2010 and 2011; around 3.8 WAR.

Edwin Jackson’s repertoire includes a fastball that averages around 95 miles per hour and a nasty slider that he could stand to use a little less. As nasty as his slider is, he lacks another out-pitch with his change-up being especially poor. Jackson’s curveball has some room for improvement, as it is a mediocre pitch overall. That being said, Jackson has one of the best sliders in baseball, and it keeps him going.

Over the years, the constantly traded righty has gradually increased the rate at which hitters chase against him, which culminated in a 30.5 O-Swing% last season. Thus, he is throwing more first-pitch strikes to get hitters down earlier, and then he throws more pitches out of the zone in order to take advantage of the favorable count that he built. Edwin Jackson is a savvier pitcher than people give him credit for, and his gradual increase in O-Swing% correlates with a decrease in Zone% and an increase in F-Strike%.

While he may not have the sexy strikeout rate and the extremely low ERA totals, but he is a solid 3.5 WAR pitcher who delivers 200 innings of solid pitching in a season for his club. That type of play from a 28-year-old is worth more than a one-year deal for $8-$12 million, so consider this a nice win for the Washington Nationals. This was the only deal Edwin Jackson could take at this time, but it is still a great signing for the Nationals even with a surprisingly low market for him.

This move was a $6 million, 1.3 WAR, victory for the Nationals in terms of WAR/$. Even with the addition of Gio Gonzalez, the Nats needed some more pitching, and they received some huge help- in the form of 3.5 wins- in Edwin Jackson. The Nationals are now looking to trade John Lannan to clear up some salary after making this move, and Lannan is certainly expendable after losing his arbitration case. Jackson is about a 2.5 win upgrade over Lannan anyway. The team is making the right moves, and Mike Rizzo finally has the same starting pitcher he once tried to trade for. Things are looking even brighter in the nation’s capital.

Be sure to check out all of Call to the Pen’s transaction breakdowns for the 2011-12 offseason. You can follow Call to the Pen on Twitter at @FSCalltothePen or like us here on Facebook.

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