Showing posts with label Edwin Jackson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Edwin Jackson. Show all posts

Monday, August 4, 2014

Buyer's remorse? Five worst recent deadline deals, White Sox edition

The White Sox have had success adding pieces at the trade deadline, but it's maybe arguable they've had more failure making deals under duress. Here are the five worst July trades since 2000:

5. July 25, 2002: Traded Ray Durham and cash to the Oakland Athletics. Received Jon Adkins.

Durham was set to be a free agent at the end of the year and a July nosedive had taken the Sox from four games back in the AL Central in late June to 14 games behind Cleveland when Durham was traded.

Not wanting to sign the then-30-year-old Durham to a big contract, but determined to get something for him, the Sox took a flyer on Adkins. Which might have made sense if not for the fact that under baseball's last collective bargaining agreement, the Sox could have offered Durham arbitration and either gotten him to agree to an affordable one-year contract, or gotten draft pick compensation when he signed with another team.

The Sox might have been better off with that draft pick than watching Adkins flounder to a 5.08 ERA in just less than 80 innings in his Sox career. Sox fans probably would have more enjoyed another two months of Durham's under-appreciated career.

4. July 28, 2012: Traded Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez to the Minnesota Twins. Received Francisco Liriano.

Liriano was walking one of the valleys of an up-and-down career with the Twins, but as a left-hander with good velocity, he seemed like a good candidate to improve under the tutelage of Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.

Instead of recapturing the dominant form he had flashed at times since his rookie year, Liriano kept nibbling at the strike zone, walking too many batters and giving up home runs at inopportune times. Deciding they'd done all they could do with him, the Sox let Liriano walk in the offseason only to watch him have a resurgent year that helped carry Pittsburgh to the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades.

Liriano probably wouldn't have found that success in the American League, or without a ballpark that helps hide some of his flaws. And the Sox probably don't miss Escobar or Hernandez. It was still a disappointing outcome as Lirano's struggles were part of the reason a division title slipped through the Sox's fingers.

3. July 26, 2001: Traded James Baldwin and cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Received Jeff Barry, Gary Majewski and Onan Masaoka.

The Sox predictably got little for Baldwin, who like Durham was set to be a free agent after the season in which he was traded. Unlike Durham, Baldwin wasn't very good.

What makes this trade embarrassing for the Sox is that they didn't actually want Jeff Barry, a journeyman minor league first baseman. They wanted pitching prospect Jonathan Berry.

Berry never made the majors, otherwise this would have been an embarrassment that could have lived on for years and years.

2. July 27, 2011: Traded Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen to the Toronto Blue Jays. Received Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart.

Instead of trading their best asset near the deadline, the Sox basically bundled it with Teahen's ill-advised contract for salary relief, plus the meh and bleh performances they'd respectively get from Frasor and Stewart.

Jackson certainly had value as the Jays immediately spun him off in a package for Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus. In a way Rasmus has been a hitting version of Jackson, with his up-and-down career that hasn't seen him reach his full potential. Though it's no doubt Rasmus' line with Toronto (.233/.295/.431) would make a number of Sox outfielders over the last three years envious.

No matter how crowded their rotation was at the time, or if Rasmus or someone similar would have been available in a similar package, the Sox should have done much better in any deal with Jackson while he was near the peak of his value.

1. July 30, 2010: Traded David Holmberg and Daniel Hudson to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Received Edwin Jackson.

Jackson graces the list twice, coming and going. Even though Jackson had one the better stretches of his career with the Sox (3.66 ERA over 196 2/3 innings), it was an awful idea to trade the young Hudson for him straight up, much less adding another prospect in Holmberg.

The Sox were concerned Hudson's fly ball tendencies wouldn't play in their ballpark. They were frustrated that he nibbled at the plate in his brief audition with the big club. And they were worried he would get hurt.

The injury concerns were validated when Hudson needed elbow surgery during the 2012 season, and then needed another during his comeback attempt. Still, he pitched to a 3.58 ERA over 347 innings for the Diamondbacks (who also play in a homer-friendly park) before his injuries. He also did it for nearly league minimum salaries.

Besides not getting good value back in Jackson, it was rumored the Sox had only traded for him in an attempt to pry Adam Dunn away from the Washington Nationals. When Nats GM Mike Rizzo either backed out, or the Jackson-for-Dunn swap wasn't as solid as Sox GM Kenny Williams had believed, the Sox were stuck with Jackson and ended up claiming Manny Ramirez off waivers in August to bolster their offense instead.

All of this was to help hold on to an unlikely division lead grabbed after an unreal 26-5 stretch during June and July. And the Sox did lead as late as Aug. 8, but the reinforcements didn't really matter much as the team slid to a double-digit deficit by mid-September. 

That the Sox were willing to spend big bucks to keep their run alive in 2010 only made it more frustrating when they punted in 2011 just to save a few bucks they never would have had the need to spend if they'd kept Hudson around.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Edwin Jackson pretty much is what he's always been

Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson has quietly strung together a few solid starts to kick off May, and after a not-so-hot April has brought his overall numbers (3.98 ERA, 3-3 record) back to general standards of respectability. That's pretty much what the Cubs paid for when they gave him a four-year, $52 million contract two winters ago.

An optimist would look at his 1.80 ERA so far this month, the improved 8.1 K/9IP rate (vs. 6.9/K9 last year), and the fact that Jackson has only given up two home runs this year (for a 0.3/9IP rate) and think the veteran right-hander is finally turning it on. After all, his fielding-independent ERA -- what we'd expect his ERA would be given average defense and luck -- is almost a full run below his actual ERA (3.03).

We've already seen the pessimist's version of this story with Jackson before. Like back in 2009 in Detroit, when he tore through the first half of the season with a 2.52 ERA, before his K rate dropped, his hit rate soared and he was pummeled for an ERA of 5.07 the second half of the season.

Cubs fans watched it unfold last year when Jackson finished June with a 5.75 ERA, forcing laments of early buyer's remorse. Then he dominated July with a 1.83 ERA ... before being battered with a 5.74 ERA the rest of the year.

To say Jackson is streaky is an understatement, but he's also been remarkably consistent in what we can expect from his overall body of work.

Before long we can expect Jackson to give up a few more hits, including more that leave the ballpark. His strikeouts will dip a little bit, and depending on his luck, will probably finish with around 190 innings of work with an ERA between 3.75 and 4.50. Maybe a little lower if he adds another long hot streak. Maybe a little higher if he goes cold like he did the last two months of last year, or gets hung out to dry in a start or two.

And again, this is exactly what the Cubs paid for. If Jackson were likely to keep the high K rate, stop walking guys and get more groundball outs -- like, say, Cliff Lee -- he probably would have gotten $100 million as a free agent instead of what the Cubs paid.

Jackson's ability is always going to frustrate people who expect more, maybe tantalized by the dominant stretches.

Enjoy this stretch for what it is, while it lasts.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pitching prices come down for the patient

Jason Vargas will make more money
than Royals fans would like.
It's not really easy to like the contract Ubaldo Jimenez got from the Orioles, unless you think he's going to pitch like an ace the way he did way back when for the Rockies. If he does that, this deal will be a steal for Baltimore. Though he probably won't.

That might not really matter though, because even if Jimenez is just an inning-muncher with a little upside, the Orioles paid what is the going rate for that kind of guy, and much less than Jimenez and his agent might have expected when the offseason began.

Jimenez isn't the only one. Ervin Santana, who is still a free agent, was no doubt pleased to see rumors floated that it would take six years and $100 million to land him. If he gets half of that now, I'll be surprised.

Matt Garza, thought to be one of the prizes of the free agent pitching market, also didn't sign until late in the offseason for much less than most people -- including the Cubs -- probably expected him to get. I mean, if you're Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein, wouldn't you rather have Garza for Edwin Jackson money instead of Edwin Jackson?

Or another point of contrast: Is Jimenez more or less dicey than Homer Bailey, who just got more than $100 million without even hitting the market?

While the top of the pitching market maybe didn't reach the heights we might have expected with the money rolling into baseball, the bottom of the market didn't seem to suffer. At least not among the teams that felt like they had to strike deals before Christmas.

Does the four-year, $49 million deal the Twins gave Ricky Nolasco before Christmas look so great now that Jimenez and Garza barely got more?

How will the Royals feel if Santana takes the same four-year, $32 million deal they gave Jason Vargas long before everyone in the Midwest got sick of snow this winter? Even worse, what if Santana decides that's a bunk deal so decides to look for a well-paying, one-year prove-it deal -- or what an agent would call a pillow contract -- in an attempt to hit the market again with two recent and successful seasons on his resume.

If the Royals hadn't rushed to sign Vargas, or the Twins to ink Nolasco and Phil Hughes (3 years, $21 million), both might have the room in their budgets and rotations to take advantage, either grabbing a better pitcher for the same or less money, or a comparable pitcher on better terms.

Instead both teams are hamstrung. Bad contracts don't usually do that until after someone's thrown a pitch.

The lesson here seems pretty obvious. Good things, or at least better prices, come to those who wait.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cubs did well at bottom of pitching market

It's easy to roll your eyes and think of Edwin Jackson when talking about the Cubs' big free agent pitching additions last year. Kyuji Fujikawa's contract might not inspire the same belly laughs as Jackson's pact, but it probably gets a guffaw.

Despite those big misses higher up on the free agent food chain, the Cubs actually did pretty well in cobbling together reclamation projects.

Scott Feldman was the obvious winner in the retread lottery. For a modest one-year, $6 million deal after an injury-stunted year in 2012, the Cubs got 91 good innings (3.46 ERA) before spinning him for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop.

Strop showed a marked improvement in his command once arriving at Wrigley Field, and might be a solid addition to the Cubs' bullpen. Arrieta posted only a superficially good ERA (3.66), but at least gives the team a low-cost option for the back end of the rotation, or maybe another bullpen piece if shift to relieving can help him harness his control problems and home run tendencies.

The other retreads the Cubs tried out didn't pan out nearly as well. Scott Baker (1 year, $5 million), who had done plenty of good work with the Twins, never got healthy enough to contribute. Carlos Villanueva (2 years, $10 million) did what he's always done, which is pitch well enough as a low-leverage reliever, not so well as a starter. Dontrelle Willis was sent packing after spring training.

If you think one out of four on those kind of projects is a bad rate of return, you're wrong. Especially for a team like the Cubs, which didn't block any real prospects from their rotation by doling out innings, or waste any staggering amount of money.

(To help put the money in perspective, the money givein to Feldman, Baker, Villanueva and Willis was less than what the $16.8 million paid to Carlos Marmol the last two seasons.)

It's all worth considering as the Cubs haven't been linked in rumors to many big free agents this winter, but have been linked to a few names like free agent Joba Chamberlain, and trade targets like Nationals pitchers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard.

Once the dust settles, with the Cubs still looking to fill out a rotation and closer spot, there will probably be other names. And why not? For a team with job openings that doesn't want to commit another colossal contract blunder, taking a chance on a player that's fallen on hard times can be a cost-effective way to build value for an organization that sorely needs to do just that.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Should the Cubs part with Samardzija?

Maybe the most interesting choice the Cubs face this offseason is what to do with right-hander Jeff Samardzija.

It will be interesting not just because of what Samardzija is -- not really a No. 1 starter, though maybe the best pitcher the Cubs have -- but the choice will signify the team's intent over the course of the next couple years.

Last year the Cubs reached for Edwin Jackson to plug a hole in the rotation, figuring someone had to pitch, so why not Jackson? The free agent had some upside, and teamed with Matt Garza, Samardzija, Travis Wood and a hopefully healthy Scott Feldman, if enough things broke right among the position players on the roster, you could squint at this team and see a contender. Or at least a team that could look competitive in a possibly weak NL Central.

Obviously, not much of that happened as the division was strong, high hopes for guys like shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo sank, and Jackson revealed himself to be the innings eater he is. Nothing more and nothing less.

Samardzija himself took a step back, at least as far as results go with his ERA climbing from 3.81 to 4.34, though advanced stats like fielding-independent pitching indicate his results weren't that much of a drop-off from 2012.

The Cubs should probably expect Samardzija to be what he's been over the last two seasons, which is a right-hander with a big fastball and a lot of strikeouts who is still pretty hittable, maybe walks a few too many guys, but isn't exceptionally homer-happy.

Maybe most people look at that and think Samardzija is a decent No. 3 starter, a pretty good No. 4 or a great No. 5. Maybe some teams look at the increasing ground ball-to-fly ball ratio (0.71 in 2011, 0.81 in 2012 and 0.97 last year) and think he just needs a better defense behind him to close the gap between his actually ERA and his FIP (3.45 last year). Some of those teams probably also look at the big strikeout rate (9.0 per 9 IP), consider the slow start to his baseball career while he played football at Notre Dame, and think he's still got the tools to blossom into a real No. 1 starter as he approaches his 30th birthday.

I don't buy that most optimistic version of Samardzija's future, because you really have to be sold on arguments that can't be made with numbers alone. However, I can see how those arguments might become more convincing to a team that finds itself unable to trade for David Price this winter.

Obviously, the offers the Cubs gets should determine their willingness to pull the trigger on any Samardzija trade. Though the haul for Garza and Feldman was underwhelming when those pitchers were dealt last summer, Samardzija is still under team control for two more years.

If I were the Cubs GM, though, it would have to be a pretty nice package, because just like a piece of the rationale for the Jackson signing, somebody's got to pitch.

The Cubs are not so deep in pitching that they can easily fill Samardzija's spot. They can't count on mining free agent gold like Feldman again. Jackson will be another year older, and any diminishing results from him might lead frustration from those expecting more to boil over into his ouster from the team. For as tough a time as Samardzija has had with his ERA not matching his FIP, Wood has exceeded expectations there by more than half a run each of the last two seasons, and that might not happen again. Other options like Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta look underwhellming.

In other words, trading Samardzija would mean the Cubs aren't pretending they might start getting things together next year. Not without risking big bucks on a replacement pitcher, or getting an MLB-ready pitching prospect back.

Current Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have been pretty candid from the beginning that this was going to be a long rebuilding process. While a lot of Cubs fans have accepted that, it's a different matter being asked to suffer though a third straight season of embarrassing baseball. Not when the second straight year led to the manager being fired

So unless the Cubs are offered a package that looks to surely exceed the value of two more seasons from Samardzija, plus a draft pick when he's offered a qualifying offer before free agency, Hoyer and Epstein should elect to keep their hurler for at least one more season.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

So, trading for Max Scherzer worked out well for the Tigers

I often say it's hard to make snap judgments when a trade is made. You often need three or four years before you can decide whether a particular deal is good or bad for the parties involved.

It's now been four years since the Detroit Tigers acquired right-hander Max Scherzer as part of a three-team deal with the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Arizona gave up Scherzer in that trade, and I'll bet that's a move they still lament to this day. On Wednesday, Scherzer was named the Cy Young Award winner in the American League by a landslide. He received 28 of the 30 first-place votes.

Scherzer, the lone 20-game winner in baseball this year, finished the season 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA for the AL Central champion Tigers. He easily outdistanced second-place finisher Yu Darvish in the voting.

Let's go back and look at that trade from December of 2009.

The Tigers traded pitcher Edwin Jackson and outfielder Curtis Granderson and received Scherzer, outfielder Austin Jackson and relief pitchers Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth.

The Yankees dealt pitcher Ian Kennedy, Coke and Austin Jackson and acquired Granderson.

The Diamondbacks gave up Scherzer and Schlereth and got Edwin Jackson and Kennedy.

If you're an Arizona fan, are you gagging yet?

Edwin Jackson had a brutal year for the Diamondbacks in 2010. He's played for three teams since. Currently, he's the Cubs' problem. Kennedy did have a couple good years in Arizona, including one very good year in 2011, but he's since fallen on hard times. The Diamondbacks traded him to San Diego for spare parts and future considerations in a midseason deal this past summer.

Likewise, the Yankees got a couple good years out of Granderson, but he had an injury-plagued 2013. He's a free agent this offseason and is likely headed elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the Tigers got a legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter in Scherzer and a leadoff hitter and top-notch center fielder in Austin Jackson.

Shrewd move by Detroit. The Tigers have made more good moves than bad over the last five years, and that's why they go to the playoffs every season.

Kershaw wins NL Cy Young

The National League Cy Young Award voting was also one-sided. Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw was a slam-dunk choice, earning 29 of 30 first-place votes.

Kershaw finished 16-9 for the NL West champions, and his 1.83 ERA was the best mark by any qualifying pitcher in the last 13 years.