Free-agent matchmaker: Edwin Jackson

Rob Carr

Where is Edwin Jackson going to go? Where should he go?

Four points about Edwin Jackson:

1. He's still just 29

At some point, his age will stop being such a surprise. But for a guy who's been around forever -- he was teammates with Rickey Henderson, Fred McGriff, and Brian Jordan -- it's easy to forget that he's the same age as a lot of players we think of as younger, like Brett Gardner, Howie Kendrick, or Jose Reyes. It feels like Jackson is 35, at least.

2. Jackson has pitched for seven teams in 10 seasons

And there's your answer to #1 up there. It's easy to think of a pitcher in his late 20s as some kind of world-weary veteran when he's pitched for almost a quarter of the teams in baseball. Without looking, guess with which team he has the most innings in his career? Tampa Bay, where he tossed 380 innings of mostly miserable pitching. Second place is Detroit, where he spent exactly one season. In a 1268-inning career spread over seven teams, he's spent the second-most time with a team that traded him less than a year after acquiring him.

3. He can still throw purty

He wasn't throwing 95 quite as often as he used to, but that's still a remarkably consistent velocity chart for a pitcher who has thrown more than 800 innings over the past four seasons. And his breaking balls are still nasty, too. Video evidence:

He's the same pitcher who has tantalized teams and pitching coaches alike for years and years. Every team that gets him is a team that's waiting for him to break out. One of these years, man, one of these years.

4. It's probably time to stop expecting anything different from Edwin Jackson

We're almost 1,000 innings into the new version -- when he started striking hitters out with his superlative stuff after leaving the Rays. And for most of those four seasons, he's been pretty danged consistent.

2009 25 3.62 33 1 214.0 27 70 161 125 1.262
2010 26 4.47 32 1 209.1 21 78 181 95 1.395
2011 27 3.79 32 1 199.2 16 62 148 108 1.437
2012 28 4.03 31 1 189.2 23 58 168 98 1.218

Outside of his supposed breakout year in 2009, he's been Edwin Jackson. Which is to say he's been up and down, enigmatically predictable. Through 10 starts with the Nationals, he looked the steal of the offseason. By October, he looked like a pitcher the Nationals were kind of hoping would get lost on the way to the field, wandering underneath new Busch Stadium like David St. Hubbins in Cleveland. And, yep, that's Jackson. He's good until he isn't, and right when you stop expecting him to be good, he's good.

That isn't to say he's not valuable. He provides innings, often quality innings. He would make just about every staff in baseball better. But he's not an ace-striped butterfly ready to emerge from his chrysalis. Teams should probably start thinking of him like a Joe Blanton or Joe Saunders, not a late-blooming rotation savior.

There's always that one team, though ...

The likely

Everyone likes a prodigal-son story, so why not have him return to the happiest 16 seconds of his life with the Toronto Blue Jays? Ah, the salad days. After all the talk up there about Jackson being more of an innings eater than an untapped resource, it might be a little wasteful to replace J.A. Happ with an expensive player who isn't likely to be that much better, but it would be worth it to the Blue Jays to test the untapped-potential theory, as long as their happy with the standard Edwin Jackson year.

Worst case, they get Happ's prodcution, but with a spare Happ in reserve. They could have used that depth last year. Best case, they get the Jackson who made the All-Star team for the Tigers in 2009, posting the best ERA+ of his career. The rotation would be stacked, not unlike the Nationals' group last year.

The ideal

The Brewers were contending late last year. Did you catch that? They were kinda sorta contending at the very last second. After a miserable start, everything coalesced, and the Brewers went on a furious, 36-23 charge over the last two months of the season. That's worth a couple of hope bucks for the upcoming season, and the best way for them to spend it would be on another starting pitcher.

Mark Rodgers has the first-round sheen on him, but he doesn't have the sexiest statistical profile. Chris Narveson is okay, but he's recovering from rotator-cuff surgery. Really, without Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, the Brewers should have one of the worst rotations in baseball, but Marco Estrada and Michael Fiers came out of nowhere to give the team a late-season boost last season.

Begrudging prediction

Blue Jays, three years, $35 million. Jackson is also a candidate to win the award for the free agent who overplays his hand and has to accept a one-year deal late in the offseason. So, the Edwin Jackson Award. You think he would be a shoo-in, but Cy Young never won a Cy Young, right?

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